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06/12/2020

Charging for disposable bags and the future ahead

Curbing disposable bag usage only first step in reducing plastics use

The problem with plastics

Plastics are easy to mold into different shapes and are both light and strong, making them attractive for manufacturers and consumers alike. They are used in countless areas of our lives. Containers made of plastic can be airtight. The material has been used to make products lighter and reduce food waste.

On the other hand, people are facing environmental problems such as climate change and plastic waste contaminating the oceans.

In 2017, China, which had been the largest importer of plastic waste in the world, decided to ban the import of plastic waste. After similar moves were taken in Southeast Asia, alternative measures were urgently called for.

These incidents and news stories about marine pollution aggravated by marine plastic litter and microplastics raised public awareness of the situation. The issue became an agenda item at the Group of 20 summit in June 2019 where Japan led discussions as the host country. An international agreement was reached regarding a target to reduce additional marine plastic waste pollution to zero by 2050.

Plastic waste polluting the ocean has become a serious issue around the world. GETTY IMAGES

Comprehensive viewpoint

Still, disposable plastic shopping bags only represent about less than 5 percent of the 9 million tons of plastic waste produced annually in Japan. Reducing their use alone won’t lead to a fundamental solution.

Charging consumers for disposable bags creates an opportunity for people to assess whether they really are necessary and change their behavior accordingly, but people should consider current circumstances and potential issues.

An important question to ask is how individuals should approach the 3R (reduce, reuse and recycle) concept within the overall context of their lives, accounting for economic and technological potential.

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