An In-Depth Look Into Japan's New Plastic Bag Levy! How Will Life Change From July 2020?

In line with the government’s push toward environmental conservation, stores throughout Japan have started to charge a fee for plastic bags from July 1, 2020. Read on for a more in-depth look at this new policy, including what led to its implementation and the pros and cons of the eco-friendly bags that will take the place of plastic bags.


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Customers to Pay for Plastic Shopping Bags From July 1, 2020

Stores in more than 60 countries around the world already charge a fee for plastic shopping bags, and as of July 1st, 2020, Japan has joined them! The goal of this new policy is to promote the reduction of plastic waste.

PET bottles, food trays... There are many examples of products that use plastic and are currently irreplaceable in our lives.

However, did you know that these plastic products damage the environment? Unbeknownst to us, environmental destruction is getting worse by the day, as seen in the progressing state of global warming due to the carbon dioxide that is generated when disposing of plastic products, as well as the death of marine animals after they eat plastic products that have washed into the seas.

In an effort to combat such issues, many countries have introduced a levy for plastic bags. This article will discuss the current state of the shift to paid plastic shopping bags in Japan, the advantages and disadvantages of using reusable shopping bags, and the latest reusable shopping bags that the Japanese are snapping up today.

The Plastic Shopping Bag Situation in Japan Up Until Now

The annual plastic consumption per capita in Japan is one of the highest in the world. But that is not surprising since people in Japan get plastic bags for free whenever they shop. Based on several computations, each person in Japan apparently uses one plastic bag per day!

Japan has somewhat fallen behind the rest of the world in terms of moves toward environmental conservation. With the introduction of the new plastic shopping bag levy, however, every citizen in the country will need to stop dodging reality and take a deeper look at the environmental issues that plague the world today.

How Much Are Plastic Bags After This New Policy?

The prices of plastic shopping bags vary depending on the store, but the following are a couple of price examples.

▼Japan\'s Top 3 Convenience Stores
〇 Lawson: 3 JPY for all sizes (incl. tax)
○ FamilyMart: 3 JPY for all sizes (incl. tax)
〇 7-Eleven: 3 JPY for small/medium-size bags and plastic bags for bento (excl. tax), 5 JPY for extra-large bags (excl. tax)

▼2 of Japan\'s Major Supermarkets
〇 AEON: 2 JPY for medium-size bags (excl. tax), 3 JPY for large bags (excl. tax), 5 JPY for extra-large bags (excl. tax)
〇 Ito-Yokado: 3 JPY for small/medium-size bags (incl. tax), 5 JPY for large/extra-large bags (incl. tax)

Pros and Cons of This New Policy

So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of this new policy?

Here are some advantages:
〇 There will be less waste
〇 We will be able cut down carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to global warming
〇 Environmental conservation awareness will increase, as the policy involves something familiar to all residents
〇 We can reduce the usage of crude oil, which is a raw material in making plastic bags

Here are some disadvantages:
〇 You must bring your own bag when you go shopping
〇 If you forget to bring a bag, you will need to purchase a plastic shopping bag
〇 If you need a plastic bag, such as for disposing household waste, you must purchase it

While it is obvious that the move to charge a fee for plastic shopping bags will help preserve the environment, the fact remains that it will put a burden on consumers. Japanese people are not in the habit of using reusable shopping bags, so many of them will probably find it inconvenient in the beginning. But with the next 10 to 100 years in mind, we all need to embrace them.

How Will the Restaurant Industry Cope?

We have so far used convenience stores and supermarkets as examples, but what about take-out food? There are actually many dining establishments in Japan that still give out plastic bags for free, including the popular gyudon (beef bowl) restaurant chain Yoshinoya, the major conveyor belt sushi chain Kura Sushi, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. When it comes to take-out, they claim that their food would be difficult to carry if not put inside a special bag because the soup might spill or the food needs to be kept in a flat, level state. In light of this, restaurants continue to give customers plastic bags even to this day.

You might feel like this goes against all environmental efforts, but actually, Japan\'s restaurant industry uses “biomass plastic,” or plastic made from plants and other biodegradable resources, for their plastic bags.

Get Rid of the Need for Plastic Bags! Introducing the Convenient Eco-Bag

With this new policy in place, more and more people will probably use reusable shopping bags in the future. Having said that, here are some hot eco-bags for those of you thinking to purchase one!

1. Shupatto

Shupatto is an eco-bag that is easy to fold up. People claim that the drawbacks of eco-bags are that they are difficult to fold and bulky, but the Shupatto solves these two issues wonderfully!


MUZOSA boasts excellent durability and is water repellent. It is made from the same fabric as those used for tents and parachutes, so there’s no question about its strength! Another great thing about this bag is that it can be folded into the size of your palm.

3. Furoshiki

You can also substitute plastic bags with a furoshiki (wrapping cloth), which has long been used in Japan. Furoshiki were originally used for wrapping presents and things that will be stored. In recent years, it has become a fashion accessory for Japanese people. Watch the video below on how to use a furoshiki as an eco-bag!

The first step to protecting the environment is to deepen your understanding of the subject and begin with something that you can do.

*This article was published on WOW! JAPAN. Click here to see a list of WOW! JAPAN articles.

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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