Consumers Union of Japan is stepping up the campaign against plastic waste. We are asking major convenience stores and coffee shop chains what they are doing in Japan, as their stores in other countries appear to be moving faster to reduce the use of plastic containers and cups.
Questionnaire on Reusable Container Initiatives
To: Seven & I Holding, FamilyMart, Lawson, Starbucks Japan, Doutor Coffee
27 May 2021
According to media reports, reusable container initiatives are progressing overseas. For example, 7-Eleven in Taiwan has announced a plan to eliminate the use of all disposable plastics by 2050, and has introduced a reusable cup system in four of its stores. In addition, FamilyMart in Taiwan has also started selling lunch boxes in reusable containers. Furthermore, Starbucks in South Korea has announced that it will eliminate disposable cups by 2025. Some McDonald’s stores in London, UK have introduced reusable takeout cups that can be returned to other McDonald’s stores after the drink is finished.
We hope that Japanese companies will also promote reuse in order to reduce the use of single-use plastics. Therefore, we would like to ask you about your company’s efforts to reuse containers.
1) Please let us know the material of each of the beverage and food (lunch box, etc.) containers that you provide for both in-store and take-out.
2) Do you have any plans to change your take-out containers from one-way containers to reusable containers?
3) If the plastic recycling promotion bill currently being discussed in the Japanese Parliament is enacted, cutlery and straws may be legislated (reduced use) next year. Examples of legislation methods include charging a fee, point card promotion schemes, and switching to alternative materials. It has been shown that point card promotion schemes does not reduce the amount of plastic bags used. Also, switching to alternative materials will not reduce the amount of waste. We believe that charging a fee is the most effective way to reduce the amount of waste. Please let us know what your policy is.
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A world-wide debate about the dangers of plastic pollution has led to the introduction of stricter laws in many countries. Japan seems to lag behind so far, but consumers can start reducing the use of plastics in many ways. Many people already bring their cloth bags to the supermarket when you go shopping. In some shops, you get a 2 Yen reduction on the price, but if everyone was serious about it, and the amount raised to 10 Yen or even more, the effect would be immediate.
In the Sugiura household, we tried to reduce the amount of plastic wrapping for food. It wasn’t an immediate success as not everyone went along with the plan. However, little steps can have remarkable consequences. Consumers Union of Japan is asking readers and members to contribute with their own creative proposals.
Essay: The Bizarre World of Plastics
When plastic materials were first discovered, they were brittle and fragile. Thus, a number of additives and “plasticizers” were introduced to counter the effects of ultraviolet light and make the materials more flexible and useful. Flame retardants were introduced as well. By the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, plastic pollution intensified. Plastic materials must be disposed of, making the garbage problem severe. In Tokyo, the toxic air pollution from the Yume-no-shima incinerators created health problems as increasing amounts of trash were thrown away by consumers.
No thought went into what would happen to plastic materials that were left in the environment. The degradation takes time. Plastic materials basically just turn into smaller plastic fragments. It becomes an invisible danger as animals ingest the fragments, even entering the human food chain. In spite of this, the makers of plastic materials, including Showa Denko, Mitsubishi Chemical, BASF and Du Pont, claim that their novel products are bio-degradable. This has led to the rather bizarre state of the world we are now facing, where the idea that plastics can simply be thrown away has been increasingly promoted.
By Amagasa Keisuke, CUJ
Participants: Consumers Union of Japan & Food Safety Citizens’ Watch
CUJ & Food Safety Citizens’ Watch held an emergency meeting on November 10, 2016 to discuss the emerging problems with the planned move of Tokyo’s wholesale fish market from Tsukiji to Toyosu. We demand that Tokyo Metropolitan Governor Yuriko Koike should definitely cancel the move to the heavily polluted Toyosu Island in Tokyo Bay. We have followed this debate closely since 2006 and wish Mrs. Koike would listen to the voices of concerned consumers. At our meeting, we adopted a resolution highlighting the importance of food and to never allow a polluted place to become a market where food is handled.
Resolution: “We demand that the move to Toyosu Island is definitely cancelled for the sake of food safety and peace of mind”
Tsukiji Market is the world’s largest. We take pride in it being a place known as “Japan’s kitchen” and regard the move of the market to Toyosu as not only being a problem for the citizens of Tokyo. Continue reading Emergency Meeting: Definitely Cancel the Planned Move of the Tsukiji Fish Market to Toyosu!