Retailers in Japan strive to reduce single-use plastics ahead of new law

Retailers in Japan are stepping up efforts to limit single-use plastics before a new law to promote recycling takes effect in April.

Under the law, convenience stores will be required to reduce the use of single-use plastic items, such as forks and spoons, which are given away for free. Some chains will switch to utensils made of other materials, while other stores plan to stop giving away such items.

Meanwhile, the paper industry sees enforcement as a business opportunity.

Lawson Inc. will introduce disposable forks and spoons in stages beginning in April that use smaller amounts of plastic.

Seven-Eleven Japan Co. will also introduce plastic forks and other utensils made from 30% plant-based materials.

Supermarket operator Life Corp. replace plastic spoons and straws with paper and wooden utensils.

Many businesses are reluctant to charge a fee for single-use utensils, fearing losing business.

But a survey by the information and communications company Biglobe Inc. shows that 65.5% of 1,000 respondents support the introduction of charges for these items.

“If they are free, we will continue to use them and casually throw them away,” said an official at Bio c’ Bon Japon Co., an organic supermarket unit of Aeon Co.. Bio c’ Bon sells 100% plant-based forks and other utensils for ¥5 each.

“We want to cooperate in building stores that are global environmentally friendly,” the official said.

FamilyMart Co., which will stop distributing single-use forks and other plastic items that can be replaced with chopsticks, began testing the movement at select outlets in Tokyo on March 10. Participating stores sell a set of cutlery that can be washed and reused. .

The paper industry develops paper cutlery and other products that can be used as alternatives.

Daio Paper Corp. developed a high-density thick paper stir stick for Doutor Coffee Co., which introduced it for its take-out service.

“We have business opportunities, especially because environmental considerations are necessary,” said a Daio Paper official.

Knife maker Kai Corp. began selling a razor product with a ready-to-assemble paper handle at convenience stores on Tuesday. Kai has reduced plastic use by 98% by switching to highly water-resistant paper supplied by a domestic company.

Ezaki Glico Co. will stop providing milk packaged with plastic straws for school lunches in April. It will use a paper wrapper that Nippon Paper Industries Co. developed to make it easy to drink straight from the container without using a straw.

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