Honestly, it’s really disgusting to see how much plastic and packaging there is in Japan
The Canadian government recently announced that they will ban single-use plastics as early as 2021. Last month, the U.K. government confirmed the ban on the sale and use of plastic straws and drink stirrers and cotton buds with plastic stems from next April. The world is moving towards reducing single-use plastic, but what about Japan?
Plastic everywhere in Japan
According to the U.N., Japan is the 2nd largest generator of plastic packaging waste per capita in the world, following the USA.
When I go back to Japan, I always hate to see so much plastic everywhere. One day, I bought a package of Vietnamese spring rolls, which is one of my favourite foods. You can make Vietnam-style raw spring rolls very easily with the package including everything you need, such as cut spring onions, Chinese leeks, cooked chicken slices, boiled shrimps, rice papers and dipping sauce.
I opened the package and found each of the ingredients individually packed in small plastic bags. I had to open each small plastic bag and realized that it provided the same volume of plastic waste as the volume of the actual food contained. If you had been there, you would have been surprised by how many plastic bags were included in one product.
Another time, I bought cold buckwheat noodles called “Zaru-soba” at a convenience store for lunch. It was in a small plastic bowl nicely wrapped with a plastic package.
There were two layers inside, seasonings on the top tray and noodles underneath. Just under the top tray, there was a thin square plastic sheet. At first, I couldn’t understand why it was there, and then I realised that it was for stopping the noodle in the bowl to be stuck to the plastic tray.
Do we really need to use all that plastic?
These plastics are used in order to make the product look nice and neat, although they don’t actually give any change to the taste of the food. I know that Japanese producers and marketers are very thoughtful to consumers and users, but I hope that they could think more about the plastic waste which they end up generating.
Most Japanese people don’t take plastic packaging seriously yet. For example, on Japanese cooking recipe websites, there are a lot of recipes uploaded by users every day in some of which they proudly introduce shortening-time recipes by using plastic bags. Nobody criticizes it.
People and companies reactions
However, there are some people who start to become more aware of this problem, although some of their reactions sound funny. One of the biggest companies in Japan, Seven & i Holdings Co., Ltd, which runs a convenience store chain not only in Japan but also in other Asian countries, announced in May, that they will stop providing plastic shopping bags by 2030.
I re-read this article. Did it say 2030? not 2020? It surely was 2030, and I don’t understand why they need 10 years to stop it. Could plastic bags still exist at all on this planet in 2030?
We need to do something
The Japanese government has to do something on this issue. Regulations and laws can bring immediate effects. At the same time, proper education is also needed.
The people, who are fighting with plastic waste in Indonesia, started first teaching children how horrible single-use plastic is. They are trying to encourage people to reuse plastic to save their beautiful ocean. Although it is difficult to change peoples minds or habits, it’s easier to let children understand the impact it could have on the earth.
It is nice to imagine that children could talk to their mothers at home;
“Mum, do we really need this plastic now? How about using something different?”
This article was modified from a post on my blog.
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HANA is a Japanese born writer who writes stories and poems in both English and Japanese. If you are an English reader, you can follow her English publications, ‘Etude of Creativity (poetry, haiku, fiction)’ and ‘Japanese Writer (blogs & essays)’ or on Twitter.