Joining the worldwide movement to combat plastic waste, two international hotels in Osaka are moving toward paper straws.

“We switched to paper straws on July 1, and the response from our customers has been very good, as they understand the problems of plastic straws,” said Naoko Nishida, marketing communications senior director at the Intercontinental Osaka.

“We began introducing paper straws earlier this month after we stopped using plastic ones. They’ve drawn interest from some female customers and those with children,” said Akiko Furusawa, marketing communications manager at the Hilton Osaka.

The new policies in Osaka reflect the broader policies of their parent companies and similar efforts in the international hospitality industry to cut back on the use of plastic bags, straws and PET bottles in Japan and elsewhere.

Earlier this month, another hotel chain, Marriot International, adopted a plan to remove disposable plastic straws and plastic stirrers from its more than 6,500 properties worldwide by July 2019.

Governments and supermarkets in Osaka Prefecture have also been moving to reduce the use of plastic, especially shopping bags. In June, nine supermarket chains in 10 cities and towns in the northern part of the prefecture voluntarily agreed to start charging customers ¥3 to ¥5 for plastic bags.

The 10 municipalities collectively have a population of about 1.8 million people, roughly one-fifth of the prefecture’s total. The city of Suita has predicted that encouraging residents to bring their own bags when they go grocery shopping and charging them for using new plastic ones will result in an annual household garbage decrease of 1,000 tons.

The recent attention to the problem of plastic garbage also comes as the city of Osaka prepares to host the 2019 Group of 20 leaders summit next June. The environmental damage from plastic waste, especially in oceans, has gained increased attention at the G20 and Group of Seven summits over the past few years.

Japan faced international criticism at last month’s G7 summit in Canada when it and the United States were the only two members not to sign the G7 Ocean Plastics Charter.

Under the charter, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and the European Union agreed to increase plastic recycling by 50 percent and to aim for 100 percent use of reusable, recyclable or recoverable plastics by 2030.

G20 countries like France, Italy and India have enacted restrictions or outright bans on the use of plastic bags over the past few years. The Japanese government announced last week it was forming a committee to look at reducing plastic waste in the world’s oceans and has said the issue will likely be taken up at next year’s G20 summit in Osaka.

But efforts to reduce the use of plastic bags in Japan are essentially voluntary, as there is no national law banning their use.


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