From the beginning of July, the “big-three” convenience store operators will charge customers on all domestic outlets for plastic shopping bags. This is in line with the government’s effort to force retailers across the country to charge fees on plastic bags. In particular, Seven-Eleven will charge 5 yen per extra-large plastic bag while the four smaller plastic bag models (small, medium, big, and bento bags) will cost 3 yen each. On the other hand, consumers would have to pay 3 yen per bag in convenience stores at Lawson and FamilyMart, no matter what size. Seven-Eleven, FamilyMart, and Lawson all intend to start shifting their plastic bags to those containing 30 percent of biomass materials, according to the number from Thejapantimes. In fact, it allows not only grocery stores but all retail outlets around the country to charge consumers for plastic bags. Aeon Co. and other major supermarket operators, as well as drug store chains such as Matsumotokiyoshi Holdings Co., have started charging fees for plastic bags since April.
The motivation for creating the new rule?
The new policy is a government effort to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the rivers, forests, streams, and, ultimately, surrounding oceans. According to Thejapantimes, domestic, and global pressure to reduce the use of plastic bags in Japan has been continuing to grow for years. The number estimated at least 8 million metric tons per year — had become the focus of international political concern. Political pressure on Japan to deal with the problem domestically was particularly intense just before the 20th Osaka summit last year. At the summit, Japan declared that stores will begin charging for plastic bags as of April 2020, which was then moved to July 1. While plastic bags containing at least 25% of biomass materials are exempt from the charging rule, the trio seeks to eliminate plastic waste by charging their plastic bags and facilitating the use of reusable shopping bags.
A significant number of retailers and even local municipalities have planned for the new regulation by offering free reusable shopping bags in advance to encourage shoppers to use them. A growing number of retailers have started asking consumers if they had brought their own bag or wanted a single-use plastic bag.
Continued heavy use of plastic packaging for food means that, even under the new rule, Japan will continue to generate large amounts of plastic waste overall. This is because one-use plastic bag garbage is estimated at 200,000 tons per year, which is a very small percentage of the approximately 9 million tons of plastic waste generated here annually. The rule, however, is not without merit. Environmental damage caused by plastic bags, particularly when they reach the ocean and begin to decompose into microplastics that enter the food chain, has long been a major international concern for the environment. Consequently, the removal of plastic bags in Japanese waters is now also a top domestic priority.
How to avoid fee? Bring Your Own Shopping Bag!
The best way to stop charging a fee and practice being more environmentally friendly is to bring your own pack. Reusable sturdy bags in all sorts of styles are available in 100-yen stores, combini, and supermarkets throughout Japan. Most of us would agree that all these bags are much more fashionable and pleasant in use than plastic bags. Yet the easiest way to eliminate single-use disposable bags is to carry your own reusable shopping bag – so if a supermarket cashier asks if you need a bag, just say: “fukuro wa iranai desu.” (‘I don’t need a bag’) to politely decline.