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As Japan moves to reduce the use of plastics at convenience stores and restaurants, some concerns remain in the those industries that the measures will impact businesses.

Last week, the Japanese government adopted at a Cabinet meeting a bill on encouraging businesses to reduce and recycle plastic waste.

Major convenience stores and restaurant chains have already been reducing plastic utensils such as spoons and straws, with some switching to the use of plant-based alternatives.

Meanwhile, some plastic items are still being distributed for free at stores, and the operators are wary of the possibility that the government may make stores charge customers for such goods once a plastic recycling bill is enacted by the Diet.

In May 2019, convenience store chain Lawson Inc. changed the containers of its iced coffee products from plastic to paper ones. Industry rivals Seven-Eleven Japan Co. and FamilyMart Co. changed the lids of their iced coffee products to those that do not require the use of straws in August 2019 and March 2020, respectively.

Starbucks Coffee Japan Ltd. replaced its plastic cups and straws with paper ones at all of its stores, and will start selling reusable straws made of silicon from Wednesday.

Restaurant chain Skylark Holdings Co. has stopped using plastic straws and is using plant-derived materials for its takeout spoons and forks.

However, spoons and straws given to customers buying products at convenience stores have yet to be switched from plastic.

The Japan Franchise Association, a convenience store industry body, has warned against the possible charges for such goods, urging the government to consider the issue carefully. The government made it mandatory for retailers across Japan to charge for disposable plastic shopping bags starting in July last year.

Many restaurants now depend on takeout and delivery services to secure earnings amid a drop in customer traffic due to the novel coronavirus epidemic.

An official of a major restaurant operator expressed concerns that charges on plastic spoons and other items may lead to restaurants losing even delivery service customers.

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