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Stores Begin Charging for All Plastic Bags in Japan in an Effort to Curb Waste
Stores of all kinds across Japan began charging for plastic bags from July 1, 2020, as the country attempts to cut down on the amount of plastic waste it creates amid growing scrutiny.
The move to charge consumers for plastic bags, which were often previously free in convenience stores and other establishments, comes at a time when other countries around the world are embracing similar practices.
The new rule requires that all stores — from convenience stores to supermarkets to department stores — charge consumers for plastic bags at the register. By doing this, the government hopes that more shoppers use their own reusable bags when out and about rather than rely on plastic bags provided by stores.
Stores are allowed to determine how much to charge customers for plastic bags. Some companies, such as Kintetsu Department Stores, charge between two yen and 20 yen for a plastic bag, while convenience stores such as Seven-Eleven have gone with much lower prices.
Based on reports from across the country, the switch over to charged bags has largely been supported by customers. Many stores, in fact, had already independently implemented similar measures in the last few years.
The move towards charged bags comes as concern over the amount of plastic waste produced gains more attention in domestic and international media. According to studies on plastic waste, Japan sits only behind the United States in terms of creating plastic waste per capita.
It isn’t just a problem for those outside of the country. As the bag charging move was implemented, Shiga Prefecture revealed that 70 percent of waste found in the famous Lake Biwa was plastic. Government officials in that region expressed hope that the plastic bag laws would help to change the situation.
Japan is somewhat late to the move away from plastic bags. Many countries around the world have completely banned the use of plastic bags, requiring that customers bring their own bags when shopping. Most recently, Germany banned single-use plastic bags, joining many other countries that have phased out the item.
Still, some countries that have banned plastic bags are still facing problems. Thailand, which banned the use of plastic bags at the start of 2020, saw a famous elephant living in the wild die because of plastic bags found in its stomach.
Besides charging for plastic bags, many other stores and establishments have turned to more eco-friendly materials for the bags they provide.
Key Words and Expressions
- charge — to ask an amount of money for a service rendered or goods supplied
- cut down — to reduce the amount or number of something
- plastic waste — plastic objects that have been thrown away and have not been recycled
- rely on — to depend on someone or something
- implement — to put something into effect
- per capita — a term used to mean the average amount for each person
- ban — to officially or legally prohibit something
- single-use — a term used to refer to a product that can be used only once
- live in the wild — to live in a free natural state that is not controlled by people
- eco-friendly — something that is not harmful to the environment
Reading Comprehension Test
- What can consumers do to avoid paying for plastic bags in Japan?
a. Bring a reusable bag when they go shopping.
b. Get a special coupon for free plastic bags.
c. Shop more at convenience stores than at supermarkets.
d. Go outside of Tokyo, the only part of the country embracing this rule.
- Which of the following is true?
a. Japan’s plastic bag law went into effect in August.
b. Japan is one of the first countries to introduce such a law.
c. Around 70 percent of waste found in Lake Biwa is plastic.
d. Department stores don’t have to charge customers for plastic bags.
- What did Germany do recently?
a. They banned single-use plastic bags.
b. They started charging customers for plastic bags.
c. They made it a requirement for shoppers to use plastic bags.
d. They found out an elephant died from plastic bags being in its stomach.
- Why is Japan introducing this plastic bag law?
- What happened in Thailand to remind people of the dangers of plastic?