• Kyodo

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The Cabinet approved Friday an ordinance obliging businesses to reduce the use of 12 types of disposable plastic items, such as cutlery and straws, from April as part of a push to protect the environment amid growing concerns over marine pollution.

Companies that handed out more than 5 tons of disposable plastic items, also including combs, toothbrushes, razors, hairbrushes, clothes hangers and garment covers, to customers in the previous fiscal year will be subject to the measure.

Those targeted could include operators of convenience stores, supermarkets, restaurants, hotels and laundries. The companies can choose how to cut down on the amount of plastic they use, with options varying from the awarding of loyalty points to customers who decline such items to the introduction of reusable alternatives.

Stores may also impose a charge to encourage customers to refuse unwanted plastic. The Cabinet approval came after legislation was enacted in June last year to reduce plastic waste and promote recycling.

Business operators that fail to meet the requirement will be advised or ordered to do so. The new law also has a provision for the imposition of fines for noncompliance.

From July 2020, it became mandatory for stores to charge for plastic bags. The country’s plastic waste totaled about 8 million tons that year.

In the convenience store industry, which uses a huge amount of plastic for bento containers, some operators have already introduced wooden cutlery or have made holes in cutlery handles to reduce the amount of plastic.

Some hotels, meanwhile, have started charging for hairbrushes and razors, which they used to provide for free.

With the new law, the government is also encouraging companies that are not targeted to join the reduction effort.

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