National / Science & Health

Japan to mandate that retailers charge fees for plastic bags, but plans for punishments unclear

JIJI

The Environment Ministry has decided to obligate retailers — including supermarkets and convenience stores — to charge fees for plastic checkout bags or provide loyalty points to shoppers who bring their own bags, officials have said.

The ministry plans to include the policy in an outline of its plastic recycling strategy due out next Friday, aiming for revisions to related laws, the officials said Friday.

Turtles and whales have been found to have eaten discarded plastic bags. The ministry judged it necessary to strengthen efforts to reduce plastic bags in order to curb plastic pollution.

The ministry plans to exempt small stores from the envisioned obligations. The range of retailers bound by the rules will be determined later.

The obligations will not apply to bags made from paper and other materials. The ministry will take into account the opinions of experts to decide whether bioplastic bags should be treated in the same way as nonplastic bags.

The ministry will discuss when to start the plastic bag charge system and whether to punish violators at an experts panel of the Central Environment Council, which advises the environment minister. The plastic recycling strategy will be set by next June.