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Asia Minute: Japan Takes Steps to Reduce Plastic Waste

Ben Mierement
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

One more country is taking steps to cut back on single-use plastic bags. Japan is proposing some changes ahead of hosting an international gathering later this month.

Japan is set to join a growing number of locations where stores will charge for single-use plastic bags.  The country’s environment minister says officials are working on the wording of legislation in time to put the law in place before the Tokyo Olympics get underway next summer.

The charge would not be a lot — 10 yen — about a dime. But it would be symbolic in a country where stores not only freely pass out plastic bags, but also tend to swaddle just about any purchase in plastic, paper or other wrapping.

Other countries in the region have gone further — including South Korea, which earlier this year totally banned the use of plastic bags by stores.

Last year, environmental activists criticized Japan for not joining the “Ocean Plastics Charter” at the G7 summit in Canada because of what officials called a “lack of preparedness.”

The only other participant not to sign on was the United States.

Later this month, Japan hosts the G-20 summit, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says plastic waste reduction will be one of the topics covered. Abe says that since Japan is hosting the meeting, it needs to lead by example.

Late last week at a ministerial meeting, Japan adopted a series of proposals to reduce plastic waste.

The government has set an initial goal of cutting the use of disposable plastic by 25% by the year 2030.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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