Asia Minute: Japanese Ministry Targets Plastic Bags

Dec 9, 2019

Last week’s move by the Honolulu City Council to ban many forms of single-use plastic is the latest development in a wider movement. In Japan, a smaller step is in effect this week.

Japan’s Environment Ministry is banning plastic bags, but only at its own building.

On Friday, Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi announced shops in the ministry building will no longer distribute plastic bags. That includes a 7-Eleven, and small operations such as drug stores and lunch places.

The Health Ministry is in the same building.

It’s definitely more of a symbolic move rather than a substantive one. Although, one ministry official told reporters it will keep nearly 900,000 plastic bags a year out of circulation. Koizumi says his ministry will “become a role model. We hope to encourage other ministries to follow suit.”

The Defense Ministry immediately announced it would adopt a similar ban in January. The Ministry also plans to extend the practice to other Self-Defense facilities in the country.

Next July, stores across Japan will start charging customers for plastic bags.

Japan has been later than some countries in addressing the issue of plastic bags — but a recent newspaper editorial questioned whether the focus on stores is misplaced.

The Japan Times suggests that plastic in both household waste and construction trash are much bigger contributors to the problem . . . saying that’s what needed is “changing consumer behavior and lifestyles as well as significantly reducing the output of disposable plastic products.”