Japan to introduce charges for plastic bags at stores to combat pollution

Japan's environment ministry is expecting that retailers may charge up to 10 yen (13 Singapore cents) per bag, with the revenue generated going to environmental measures.PHOTO: AFP. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

TOKYO, Jun 4, 2019, Xinhua. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday (June 4) offered his support to plans by the environment ministry to introduce mandatory charges for plastic bags at supermarkets and other stores, as the country sets about reducing the amount of its plastic waste, reported the Xinhua.

According to Environment Minister Yoshiaki Harada, Mr Abe said on Tuesday that his ministry’s proposal, to introduce a new law banning stores providing single-use plastic bags for free as a means to combat pollution, is following the right direction.

“The proportion of plastic bags among plastic waste is not big, but charging would be symbolic of Japan’s efforts to reduce such waste,” Minister Harada said.

Mr Harada said the price of plastic bags should be a deterrent to using them, with the ministry expecting that retailers may charge up to 10 yen (13 Singapore cents) per bag, with the revenue generated going to environmental measures.

Japan last week adopted a policy package to reduce the amount of plastic waste it produces amid similar efforts worldwide and ahead of the Group of 20 summit in Osaka this month.

Mr Abe said at a ministerial conference at which the new policy package was finalised that plastic waste reduction will be a hot-button topic at the G-20 summit, and, as Japan is chairing the meeting, it should lead by example.

The package comprises methodologies on reducing the amount of plastic waste entering the ocean and tackling pollution in the sea by microplastics, as well as efforts to promote the recycling of plastic bottles in Japan.

The policy package also advocates for more support to be given to developing countries to help lessen plastic waste and promote recycling, as well as the development of materials that naturally decompose and do not require incinerating or being dumped in landfills or the ocean.

Japan and the United States have come under fire for not being signatories to the Ocean Plastics Charter at the Group of Seven summit in Canada last year.

As a result, the Japanese government has said that it is doing more to cut down on the amount of plastic waste the country produces.

The government here has said it plans to reduce emissions of domestic greenhouse gases by 80 per cent by 2050, with the Tokyo Metropolitan government saying it plans to reduce emissions in the capital to effectively zero by 2025.

In part, to achieve this, it will significantly reduce the amount of emissions from incinerating plastic waste by 2030, with plans laid down to reduce the burning of plastic waste by 40 per cent, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said recently.

Japan produces the largest amount of plastic waste per capita after the United States.

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