National

H&M to halt use of plastic bags at Japan stores and charge for paper bags

JIJI, Kyodo

H&M Hennes & Mauritz Japan K.K., which operates 88 H&M casual clothing stores in the country, said Tuesday that it will abolish use of plastic shopping bags in December.

The company plans to sell paper bags for ¥20 apiece instead, aiming to encourage customers to bring their own bags.

CEO Lucas Seifert told a news conference in Tokyo that just switching from plastic to paper bags is not enough in terms of sustainability. The most important thing is to eliminate the consumption of shopping bags, he said, adding that the company has a goal of halving the amount of shopping bags used in 2019 compared with 2018 figures.

The company plans to donate some of the profits from its sales of paper bags to World Wide Fund for Nature Japan.

Moves to stop using plastic products such as straws are spreading globally to fight ocean pollution.

H&M stores in Europe, the United States and elsewhere have been switching from plastic to paper bags in stages since September.

A council within Japan’s government approved on Tuesday an environmental policy draft to cut disposable plastic waste by 25 percent by 2030, and boost the use of bioplastics made from plants.

The government plans to officially adopt the strategy by next March and offer it as a pledge at the summit of the Group of 20 economies in Osaka next June.

Japan produces the largest amount of plastic waste per capita after the United States, and has lagged behind other countries in curbing use of plastics such as disposable containers and shopping bags.

Although the Environment Ministry aims to decrease plastic waste, the draft does not specify the benchmark year for the targeted percentage in waste reduction due to industry concerns about negative economic repercussions and feasibility.

The draft approved by the Central Environment Council makes it mandatory for retail outlets to charge for shopping bags.

The draft also aims to increase the use of bioplastics to around 2 million tons by 2030, and for all plastic waste to be “effectively utilized” by 2035.

It also pledges to help developing countries reduce plastic waste by sharing Japan’s experience and technical knowledge.