Mandatory charging for plastic shopping bags
From July 1, all retail stores including convenience stores and supermarkets in Japan started to charge shoppers for plastic bags as a measure to save the environment. Under the guidelines set by the government, stores are now asked to charge customers at least 1 yen for each bag, hoping that more people will bring their own bags when going shopping.
Although the percentage of plastic that is recycled is 84% in Japan, about 9 million tons of plastic waste are produced and there have been domestic and international pressure to reduce the amount of it (precisely speaking, among 56% of so-called recycled plastics in Japan is not “Reuse” of the material but they are burned to create thermal energy… hmm is it really recycling?). Single-use plastic bag garbage takes about 200,000 tons a year in Japan so the percentage of plastic waste that can be reduced by this policy is not huge but taking the possible environmental damage into consideration, the government decided to work on plastic bags first.
The introduction of this system came from the global issue of marine plastic waste. Many areas in the world have seen birds and fish consume plastic waste by mistake and wasted plastic bags have been a cause of destroying the coastal landscape. In fact, plastic waste flowing into the world’s oceans is estimated to at least 8 million metric tons every year.
By charging all shoppers for plastic bags, the government is hoping to raise awareness about the global issue and planning to increase the number of shoppers who do not seek plastic bags to 60% by the end of 2020 (the proportion was 30% in March this year).
Over 90 countries have bans or restrictions on single-use plastic items and people there are more aware of the damage that they could cause to the environment. In addition to the use of plastic bags, Japan’s excessive plastic wrapping for food and sweets is often pointed out by many environmentalists. We have a lot to work on about plastic materials.
How to say “I don’t need a bag” when shopping in Japan
If you are in Japan (or have chance to come in the future) and asked if you would like a plastic bag at a store/shop, you can say these phrases below to tell that you don’t need.
大丈夫(Daijobu) is a casual way of saying “I’m OK (I don’t need it).”
・袋はいりません（Fukuro ha irimasen)
袋(Fukuro) means a bag. いりません(Irimasen) means “I don’t need it”.
We all need to work more on saving the environment. I do hope this new policy will be a step to raise a concern about environmental issues nationwide.
See you next time!
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