Imagine you’re in a bakery and after three indecisive minutes, you finally choose the chocolate croissant. As you wait at the register, you can’t help but notice your pastry being covered with transparent plastic, placed in a bag, and inserted into another plastic carrying bag. This is the reality of plastic overpackaging in Tokyo and although current efforts are being made to eliminate this problem, the reality is that it will not improve until a clear course of action is put in place.

In recent years, the government has taken initiatives to reduce plastic overpackaging. Some stores offer discounts of ¥1 or ¥2 to customers who bring their own bags, while others offer the eco-point system, in which points are granted to citizens who take environmentally friendly action. These efforts have had a very minor impact on this issue, as double packaging can still be seen in supermarkets, convenience stores and bakeries.

The most effective government initiative would be to tax or ban plastic bags. This is a win-win solution because not only would shops get to sell reusable bags instead of paying for plastic bags to give away, but customers would get used to carrying foldable bags with them and enjoy not having to dispose of multiple plastic bags when they get home.

To eliminate plastic overpackaging in Tokyo, plastic bags should be taxed or banned and reusable bags should be sold at supermarkets and convenience stores. Shoppers should also tell the clerk that they don’t want a plastic bag before the clerk tries to put their purchases in a plastic bag. Through these simple solutions, Tokyo could easily reverse its reputation as a “plastic waster.”

As Erik Solheim, head of the U.N. Environment Program, stated: “Plastic isn’t the problem. It’s what we do with it.”


The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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