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What can we do to reduce single-use plastic in Japan?

According to the U.N., Japan is the 2nd largest generator of plastic packaging waste per capita in the world, following the USA. You will find lots of products beautifully packaged with plastic bags everywhere in Japan.

What is the plastic for in Japan?

When I was in Japan, I bought a package of Vietnamese spring rolls kit, which is one of my favourite food. You can make Vietnam-style raw spring rolls very easily with the package including everything you need, such as cut spring onions, Chinese leeks, cooked chicken slices, boiled shrimps, rice papers and dipping sauce.

I opened the package and found each of the ingredients individually packed by small plastic bags. I had to open each small plastic bags and realized that it provided the same volume of plastic waste as the volume of the actual food contained. If you had been with me at that time, you must have been surprised how many small plastic bags there were in one product.

Another time, I bought cold buckwheat noodles called "Zaru-soba" at a convenience store for lunch. It was in a small plastic bowl nicely wrapped with a plastic package.

There were two layers inside, seasonings on the top tray and noodles underneath. Just under the top tray, there was a square of a thin plastic sheet. I didn't immediately understand why it was there, after a couple of minutes, I knew that it was for stopping the noodle in a bowl to be stuck to the plastic tray.

We have to change

Do we really need those single-use plastic wastes?

They are only for making product look nicely and neatly, they don't give any changes to the food taste. I know that Japanese producers and marketers are very thoughtful to consumers and users, but I hope that they will have more imagination about the plastic wastes which they end up generating as a result.

Also, Japanese consumers are too blindness about this issue. On the Japanese cooking recipe websites, there are a lot of recipes being uploaded every day in which they proudly introduce shortening-time recipes by using plastic bags. Nobody criticizes it.

What should we do?

There are some shops who stopped providing free plastic shopping bags, but some customers choose other shops where they don't have to bring own bags. The Japanese government has to do something on this, of course. My suggestion is educating children first.

I think it is a good approach to teach children how horrible single-use plastic waste is. I learnt it from the people fighting with plastic wastes in Indonesia. They are trying to encourage people to reuse plastic in order to save their beautiful ocean. It is difficult to change people's mind or habit, but it's easier to let adoptive children understand how much impact it could give to the earth.

If children are properly educated, they will say at home;
"Mum, do we really need this plastic now? How about using something alternative?"

Related Post:

Layers of Paper Packaging in Japan


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