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Japan to cut plastic waste from April via new Cabinet ordinance

Japan’s Cabinet approved Friday an ordinance obliging businesses to reduce the use of 12 types of disposable plastic items like cutlery and straws from April as part of a push to protect the environment amid growing concern over marine pollution.

Companies that handed out more than 5 tons of disposable plastic items, also including combs, toothbrushes, razors, hairbrushes, clothes hangers and garment covers, to customers in the previous fiscal year will be subject to the restriction.

File photo taken in 2018 shows garbage boxes filled with plastic trash in Tokyo. (Kyodo)

Those targeted could include operators of convenience stores, supermarkets, restaurants, hotels and laundries. The companies can choose how to cut down on the amount of plastic they use, with options varying from the awarding of loyalty points to customers who decline such items to the introduction of reusable alternatives.

Stores may also impose a charge to encourage customers to refuse unwanted plastic. The Cabinet approval came after legislation was enacted in June last year to reduce plastic waste and promote recycling.

Business operators that fail to meet the requirement will be advised or ordered to do so. The new law also has a provision for the imposition of fines for noncompliance.

Japan made it mandatory for stores to charge for plastic bags from July 2020. While related marine pollution remains a serious issue, the country’s plastic waste totaled about 8 million tons in that year.

In the convenience store industry, which uses a huge amount of plastic for bento boxed meal containers, some operators have already introduced wooden cutlery or have made holes in cutlery handles to reduce the amount of plastic.

Some hotels, meanwhile, have started charging for hairbrushes and razors, which they used to provide for free.

With the new law, the Japanese government is also encouraging companies that are not targeted to join the reduction effort.


Related coverage:

Japan firms look to paper products to reduce plastic waste

Japan to oblige businesses to reduce 12 disposable plastic items

Aluminum cans slowly replace plastics to tackle marine pollution


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