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Plastic bags are now chargeable in Japan.
2020.07.21

If you are not currently in Japan, the next time you visit you may be met with a minor surprise. Everywhere you go, for everything you purchase, you will be charged anywhere from 1 - about 10 yen for the plastic bags your purchase comes in.

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They even give you a choice of size and price.

Yes, everywhere. This is more than just a simple initiative or suggestion. It is a national measure put in place by the Japanese government and affects all retailers from the ubiquitous 7-11 to upscale branded goods boutiques ( Do these use plastic bags? ) to large warehouses that give out gigantic plastic bags (I suppose they could be more expensive than 10 yen, I have yet to check these out).

The objective, is of course, to better the environment around us. By reducing plastic use and therefore plastic trash, the volume of plastic trash is reduced. This means lesser toxic emission from burning plastic, less plastic bags in landfills and also hopefully, lesser stray plastic bags in our oceans.

It is reported that plastic shopping bags account for only 2% of all plastic waste produced in Japan; however the hope this move creates greater awareness and catalyses a bigger cultural change and reduction in overall plastic use beyond just plastic bags. Personally, I feel that any change is better than no change - I'm in extreme agreement and I hope that my home country Singapore can also pick up this measure in the near future.

The measure came into effect on the 1st of July this year, just 2 weeks ago. Signs were placed prominently at cashiers everywhere by mid-June, so it didn't as too big of a surprise; however It still took some getting used to as I started saving up on more of my plastic bags instead of throwing them (It already started having an effect even before July!). I also got myself 2 reusable shopping bags that I now carry when I go grocery shopping.

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Signs signs everywhere. 

For the unwitting tourist coming in when the current pandemic situation has somewhat come under control however, it might come as a little shock, especially since tourists will generally do quite a bit of shopping.

If asked, you can of course reject the use of the plastic bags. However, as is common and understandable, if you don't look like you can speak Japanese, I do suspect that the cashier may do away with any explanation and simply assume that you will be using the bag. A few cents may not even come as much of bother for the happy tourist, but between that and the opportunity to help reduce plastic waste, I hope that you, dear reader, can do your part and prepare your reusable bag the next time you visit Japan!

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This resuable bag actually came free with purchase of a Salonpas spray.
Date posted :
2020.07.21
Poster :
Lester

Author profile

I'm an aspiring architect pursuing/living my dream of working in Japan.
I work in Tokyo, but live across Futagotamagawa in Oakhouse Kajigaya, Kawasaki.

Working in Japan is hard, but there's lots of opportunities to play hard as well.
I hope to share a little of my experience with everyone through this blog.