National

Eco-friendly bioplastics in the bag for Japanese retailers

Kyodo

Businesses and authorities in Japan are turning to bioplastics to make shopping bags, garbage bags and product containers to step up their efforts at environmental conservation.

Environmentally conscious consumers have responded positively to the initiative and view it as a practical way to help the environment.

Oriental Land Co., which runs the Tokyo Disney Resort in Chiba Prefecture, is among the participating businesses that have begun using shopping bags made of bioplastic derived from sugarcane ethanol.

The bags, available in different sizes and bearing the Mickey Mouse logo, started appearing at souvenir shops in the Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea resorts and their hotels in 2015.

“We decided to use the bags as they will help reduce the burden on the environment,” says an Oriental Land official, referring to widespread concerns about the harmful carbon dioxide emitted when conventional petroleum-based plastics are incinerated.

Bioplastics are derived from renewable biomass sources, such as sugarcane ethanol, corn starch and cellulose from woods. Upon disposal, they are broken down by microorganisms into carbon dioxide and water. Since the carbon is from original biomass sources, it is considered environmentally neutral, meaning no additional carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere.

Supermarket chain Aeon Co. has been using sugarcane-derived bioplastic shopping bags at its largest stores since 2013.

Along with encouraging customers to bring their own shopping bags, the bioplastic bags provided and charged to customers at their own request are part of the company’s conservation efforts. Proceeds from the bags are all donated to promote environmental protection activities.

Aeon also sells Topvalu Fururi umbrellas made with bioplastic sheets at some stores. The plastic sheets come with different designs and customers can even change them, using a method explained in a video on Aeon’s website.

Ahead of the game is cosmetics maker Shiseido Co.

In 2011, it began using sugarcane-based bioplastic for the containers of its Super Mild shampoo and conditioner series, which has “been well received” by consumers.

The firm is proceeding with plans to use other types of environmentally friendly materials for its products, according to the company.

As for municipalities, the city of Kyoto plans to introduce bioplastic garbage bags on a trial basis in June.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on global warming. If the trial goes well, the city will officially designate the bags for residents’ use when taking out the garbage, it says.

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