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New law requires major companies in Japan to reduce disposable plastics from April 1

  • March 31, 2022
  • , The Mainichi
  • English Press

TOKYO — A law aimed at reducing the use of disposable plastic products goes into effect on April 1 in Japan, requiring businesses that use large amounts of such plastic to reduce its use.


The law is likely to spur reduction of plastic waste among restaurants, accommodation facilities and other businesses. However, specific reduction measures have largely been left to businesses and consumers, so it is not clear how much reduction can be expected.


Under the plastic resource recycling promotion law, businesses that provide 5 metric tons or more of plastic products per year are obliged to reduce the amount used. The law covers 12 items, including spoons and forks offered at supermarkets and convenience stores, toothbrushes supplied by hotels, and hangers at dry cleaning stores.


Reduction methods are left to the discretion of the business, with options including reducing the weight of such products, charging a fee for them, switching to alternative materials, or giving points to customers who turn the items down.


Convenience store giant Lawson Inc. will sequentially reduce the weight of its conventional spoons and forks by making holes in their handles starting April 1. The company aims to introduce the lightweight spoons and forks at all of its stores by August, and will also start offering wooden spoons in some stores that month. Another major convenience store operator, Seven-Eleven Japan Co., has already switched to spoons and forks that contain 30% plant-derived plastic.


The hotel industry is also beginning to review the distribution of plastic items. Hotel chain Super Hotel Co. stopped providing toothbrushes and other supplies in guest rooms on March 31. The company instead decided to set up a supply corner in the front lobby of all its hotels from April 1, and guests will bring such items into their rooms at their own discretion.


The new law does not uniformly regulate the use of plastic, as was the case with the introduction of a charge, in principle, for plastic bags at retail stores in July 2020. A significant number of companies have been reluctant to charge for plastic products in order to avoid confusion among users, and it is unclear whether the new law will lead to resource recycling measures extending to all plastic products, as it seeks.


(Japanese original by Toshiyuki Suzuki, Science & Environment News Department)

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