Curbing disposable bag usage only first step in reducing plastics use
The METI Journal looks into the current plastic waste situation and efforts to develop materials and products with a low environmental load, and discusses how we can shape a sustainable future.
In January, a unique idea for reducing disposable plastic shopping bags was tested at convenience stores inside government ministry buildings, including the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Finance. The test was aimed at assessing the impact on consumer behavior of putting a behavioral economics concept called Nudge theory into practice.
Organizers distributed cards with a printed message saying, “I don’t need a disposable bag,” intended for shoppers to show cashiers their preference. While similar card systems are often used at Japanese retailers, different card designs were trialed in this test to see if there was any difference in the number of shoppers who declined plastic bags.
At a store inside the METI building, cards with a design featuring a photo of a beach strewn with marine litter were used, while the cards introduced at a store at the Ministry of Finance only had the message printed on a blank background.
As the word indicates, the idea behind Nudge theory is to provide preferable options to curb people’s behavior in desired ways while respecting their freedom. The January test was part of a new initiative to explore ways to alter consumer behavior in order to reduce plastic waste through methods other than charging for disposable bags.