Bourbon’s lineup of popular biscuits are all individually packaged. Photo: justice_hidex
national

Japanese student criticized for campaign against excess plastic packaging

68 Comments
By Oona McGee, SoraNews24

If you’ve ever enjoyed a rice cracker or biscuit from Japan, you’ve probably marveled at the subtle flavor, the delicate attention to detail…and all the extra plastic packaging. That’s because a large majority of multi-pack snacks come individually wrapped, largely catering to Japan’s custom of buying edible omiyage (souvenir) gifts for work colleagues to share after a trip away.

While it may feel nice to give and receive individually wrapped morsels, all that extra plastic isn’t doing Mother Nature any favors. However, Mother Nature has found an ally in a Japanese private high school student in Tokyo, who recently decided to make a change by starting a petition to end excessive plastic packaging.

The 16-year-old student called out chocolate maker Bourbon and Kameda Seika, a leading rice cracker manufacturer, as the biggest culprits, saying the excess waste came to her attention after she and her family ate an increased number of their products while staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

The student says she was sorting out the plastic recycling with her mother one day when she was shocked to see the amount of plastic food packaging their family of five went through. After sorting the plastic waste, more reappeared the next day, and after reading about the environmental problems it could cause, especially to oceans and marine life, she decided to start a Change.org petition aimed at the two snack brands.

The petition asking the two brands to put an end to excess plastic packaging was posted on May 13 and has since received over 18,400 signatures as of this writing. Despite the overwhelming support, however, the student still received backlash from people quite happy to keep with old habits.

“My grandmother likes to give these to visitors so the individual wrapping is convenient for her when she has guests over.”

“Older people don’t eat as many snacks as younger people, so they don’t waste as much packaging.”

“It keeps the food safe and it’s hygienic, what’s not to like?”

“If the plastic tray insert is removed, the crackers will crack — is that what you want?”

“She’s probably too young to know about the Glico Morinaga incident.”

The Glico Morinaga incident refers to an unsolved extortion case affecting confectionery brands Glico and Morinaga from 1984 to 1985. The culprit claimed to have laced Glico confections with potassium cyanide, causing the company to pull products from sale, costing them hundreds of millions of yen.

To this day, many people believe the individual packaging used in Japanese snack products is a direct result of this incident. However, that theory has been debunked by a number of researchers, who point out that while products were initially packaged in extra thick plastic as a precautionary measure after the incident, the thin plastic used nowadays provides no protection against being pierced with poisoned syringes.

While the debate around plastic packaging heats up in Japan, the student who started the petition will be presenting the signatures to Bourbon and Kameda Seika on July 28 and 29. Environmental issues and ideas for future packaging will be discussed at the meeting.

According to a spokesperson at Kameida Seika, the company agrees that they should reduce plastic waste and are currently promoting new packaging that doesn’t include the flat plastic tray insert. A spokesperson at Bourbon says they aim to switch over to plant-based “plastics” in future.

It’s good to see the conversation around plastic waste is having its time in the limelight in Japan, thanks to a high school student from Tokyo.

Sources: Yahoo! News, Jin, Change.org

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

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© SoraNews24

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

68 Comments
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Can't believe a young person seeing an obvious fault, that degrades their future. Is derided for it. That's just stupid unfair and says a lot about those that find offence at the idea of less plastic waist.

37 ( +42 / -5 )

Ever brought a packet of peanuts or crisps? The large plastic bag is only about 20% full. 80% is unneeded plastic.

33 ( +36 / -3 )

People who don’t see the light are ridiculous

I’m also shocked when I see the monumental amounts of waste in plastic recycling days as well as the non burnable days

I try and search for less packaging when shipping for food.... I think it would be easier to find a vegan meal at the convenience store

20 ( +23 / -3 )

It’s good to see the conversation around plastic waste is having its time in the limelight in Japan, thanks to a high school student from Tokyo.

This is a VERY serious issue, and the backhanded remark here, making it sound like it's a "thing to do now" and will disappear later is dead wrong!

Japanese use far too much plastic in their packaging, and there has been a huge INCREASE because of the corona virus pandemic as well! Local supermarkets that used to have "deli" items for people to pick from and bag or package on their own, now put them all into individual plastic containers instead, to stop people from "finger-frucking" the goods!

Kudos to the girl here, and this needs to go national, not just Sora!

25 ( +28 / -3 )

Be good for the petition to be written in English and shared world wide! She'd get a million responses in no time flat!

23 ( +25 / -2 )

Steps are being taken in Japan to reduce single-use plastics... but it's half measures when a lot of the products you buy are dual wrapped (individually wrapped inside a sealed plastic bag).

14 ( +14 / -0 )

There's enough plastic in the oceans, if spread across land would cover the whole of Britain knee deep.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

I think they are not packed with plastics but papers.

-10 ( +2 / -12 )

“If the plastic tray insert is removed, the crackers will crack — is that what you want?”

I can only read this being said with the maximum amount of oyaji disdain, as if a few cracked crackers will somehow end up being the first step on the slippery slope to hell that will destroy all of Japanese culture. Next thing you know, there's only going to be 3 unique seasons!

22 ( +25 / -3 )

Individual pieces of fruit get wrapped in plastic for heaven's sake. Why does a banana need packaging. It comes with one already!

28 ( +30 / -2 )

More examples of the systemic bullying by a nation of children!

6 ( +14 / -8 )

David Barnes...lol.. precisely. If anyone should be criticized it's the selfish oyaji twits writing response s like that. To hell with the environment, I won't be here in a few years so I don't care as long as my crackers are individually wrapped and in a plastic tray , cause ya know that's how it's always been and I'm incapable of change cause of my unique J culture and the rest of that crap.

13 ( +16 / -3 )

Individually wrapped biscuits last longer and can be stored as emergency food. And most of the plastic packaging ends up in the incinerators, not in the ocean. There’s nothing wrong with young people becoming aware of environmental problems. We just need to get perspective.

-27 ( +3 / -30 )

I'm always amazed how much plastic garbage Japanese people thrown into rivers or leave on the beach.

18 ( +21 / -3 )

Japanese Greta! Gives me hope for the future!

14 ( +17 / -3 )

@Meiyouwenti

Individually wrapped biscuits last longer and can be stored as emergency food. And most of the plastic packaging ends up in the incinerators, not in the ocean. There’s nothing wrong with young people becoming aware of environmental problems. We just need to get perspective.

So it is OK because the oceans are not being polluted directly that much just the atmosphere. The same air pollution that eventually will become rain and fall not only in the oceans but on the land too!

Brilliant!

17 ( +19 / -2 )

I think they are talking about the flat plastic trays that are inserted to avoid cracking of the cookies. They are wrapped with cellophane papers - whole and individual, I recall.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

It's shocking that they're charging for plastic bags at stores now, but basically everything you put into those bags is wrapped in plastic. They're going after the wrong people. Kudos to this young lady & please keep up the fight. And ditto on what "Yubaru" mentioned. An English version would be nice.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

When I first came to Japan I noticed this too. I'm glad this girl is doing something about it. Many people can be thick headed and love to repeat the phrase "shou ga nai."

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Japanese shoppers will soon be carrying around "brown bags." I hope not.

-10 ( +2 / -12 )

For people who don't know. Plastic is also extremely difficult to recycle because of all the printed colors on the packaging. The power input to recycle is greater than the final product.

Yet the technology for recycling pet bottles is efficient because all pet bottles are clear. You must take off the plastic covers and bottle caps. Otherwise your just stuffing up the process.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

I'm very proud of this girl! ^^

It is not easy at all for young people to question the established ways in Japan because of how change resistant it often is. I wish the education system here would encourage it more. A lot of people would probably consider her non-compliant and trying to stick out.

A future where crackers crack.... shocking lol.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

One more thing can we please get rid of. The fake plastic greenery in bento boxes and the printed lettuce in beef packaging. Styrofoam should all be regulates to white, as it is better for recycling. And stop it with the styrofoam on fruit.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

I think the use of plastics in packaging is fine. It has nothing to do with plastic in the ocean. Plastic in the ocean is a result of people dumping trash rivers and the ocean – a completely separate issue.

Recycling efforts have been under for years. Part of the problem is that consumers don’t want plastic bottles that are recycled because the plastic is not clear it doesn’t look as nice as “new“ plastic.

but if you can’t stop people from dumping trash in the rivers in the ocean, you will have dirty oceans all the time.

-15 ( +1 / -16 )

Individually wrapped biscuits last longer and can be stored as emergency food. 

Except that they are not by any stretch of the imagination, food. They are bombs of sugar, salt, fat and chemicals which do no one any good. That fact is negatively compounded by the multiple layers of plastic encasing this stuff. I have absolutely no idea why people go ga-ga over the stuff. Japan has so much glorious fresh, local food. Cut the crap already.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

While it may feel nice to give and receive individually wrapped morsels, all that extra plastic isn’t doing Mother Nature any favors. 

But its protecting humans from germs. Should we cut the plastic in PPEs and Covid 19 tests as well?

-10 ( +2 / -12 )

They made an effort with plastic shopping bags however, these make up only 3% of waste plastic. This girl is doing a great job!

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Biscuits and snacks are not individually wrapped in many countries. The ones you don’t eat you put in a tin for later, that’s how the rest of the world manages. Things are horribly over packaged here, it’s ridiculous.

15 ( +15 / -0 )

What % of the plastic waste in Japan is from this wrapping?

What % of 100 yen store's products are plastic?

So ban Daiso and its ilk, while you're at it.

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

“Older people don’t eat as many snacks as younger people, so they don’t waste as much packaging.”

There it is folks! The ultimate in head in the sand logic!

One should add that, most of the excess packaging in souvenir packaging is cellophane, which is the worst of all plastics for the environment. It breaks down very quickly to create micro plastics, which we are all eating.

Good on this kid for having a go at changing Japan. However, it was inevitable she would be shot down and ostracized for attempting to upset the “reiwa”.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Plastic in the ocean is a result of people dumping trash rivers and the ocean

Actually, most of the plastic in the ocean, by weight, is made up of air-borne microplastics originating from the wearing down of car tyres. (Plastic waste from rivers is the second major source).

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Sorry, I thought cellophane was paper. Snack foods wrapped individually are good for us. Our stomach is not as big as yours and we cannot eat them all at a time. It is difficult to keep the remaining ones without getting damp.

-12 ( +1 / -13 )

Classic Japanese response to a commonsense observation - take it as criticism, and go on the defensive.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

"And most of the plastic packaging ends up in the incinerators, not in the ocean." Ever heard of dioxins? They're released into the atmosphere when plastic is burnt.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Lucky she's only 16. Japanese corporates are well protected from consumers.

Under Article 230-1 of the Criminal Code of Japan: “(1) A person who defames another by alleging facts in public shall, regardless of whether such facts are true or false, be punished by imprisonment with or without work for not more than three (3) years or a fine of not more than 500,000 yen.”

5 ( +5 / -0 )

To state that certain goods are over wrapped is a criminal offense?

WTF?

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Actually those plastic trays for cookies and crackers etc. would be good if they were all uniform sizes, colors and shapes, washed and reused. Humans using long lasting plastic for sort term uses is just more evidence of how stupid and lazy people are.

But individual wrapping? Its just plain excess. If you want to keep crackers and cookies fresh, by an air-tight jar. Its not perfect but its good enough if you are actually eating the darned things in a reasonable amount of time.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The type of arguments used against her tells a lot about the low level of intelligence of a lot of people here and how ignorant they are about serious environmental issues. It’s baffling.

you’ve probably marveled at the subtle flavor, the delicate attention to detail

You would have to have a serious deficiency in taste if you marvel for that tasteless low grade junk. And if they would have any attention to detail, they wouldn’t stupidity pack this low grade junk in so much plastic. So much ressource used for meaningless food, this is stupidity.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Wow! A lot of people don’t like recycling efforts - or are FOR dumping trash in rivers / oceans.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

luddite:

Biscuits and snacks are not individually wrapped in many countries. The ones you don’t eat you put in a tin for later, that’s how the rest of the world manages.

It's as if some people have never heard of tins or containers. Good grief.

I bought some German pumpernickel the other day. The slices weren't individually wrapped (as it wasn't made in Japan) so I put the uneaten portions into my tupperware. Yes, it's plastic but I've used it for well over two decades.

Not long ago, I saw a pack of three slices of bread by Pasco in a supermarket. Yeah, these slices of ordinary bread were individually wrapped and then put into another plastic covering. And don't get me started on the price. I could buy two loaves of whole grain bread with that amount of money back home. Sweet mother.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

vanityofvanities - Sorry, I thought cellophane was paper. Snack foods wrapped individually are good for us. Our stomach is not as big as yours and we cannot eat them all at a time. It is difficult to keep the remaining ones without getting damp.

Oh, my goodness!

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Do the hustle:

Oh, my goodness!

I'd like to ask him what planet he's living on, but I dread getting an answer.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Japanese ,,Greta” on the march against “plastic fantastic” Japanese companies.

These companies need to change and stop profiteering, prioritising the environment more by reducing plastic waste. Old habits die hard I’m afraid...there is no other positive solution here THOUGH.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

To be honest, I feel safer consuming food that has been wrapped individually.

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

It surprises me that garbage day is twice a week. But I guess thats because of all the plastic and things people need to throw away. Even a single foreigner like me often has two or three grocery bags of gomi to take to the corner and I have a compost.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I don't have a complete solution but as some have pointed out the elderly, omiyage, etc... individually wrapped can be needed otherwise we then end up with the other problem of food waste. So the idea would be have both available non wrapped and wrapped, but as individually wrapped costs are higher charge more. Most daily use will opt for the cheaper choice. My bigger problems are meat/fish and PET bottles, as a child meat/fish came wrapped in paper very little waste, renewable, I hate those styrofoam trays and PET bottles oh and milk cartons both a waste, I loved the glass bottles with return deposit just keep one on you need another drink just get one return the empty pay only the drink no waste, Japan is so small and densely populated that home delivery of milk in full size reusable bottles is highly feasible. If they can do it with those tiny joke bottles of unpasteurized milk they can do it with regular milk.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

It surprises me that garbage day is twice a week

Three times a week here, plus recyclables twice a month. We also compost, so no food waste from our house. There's usually one small, half-full bag of combustible waste (mostly carpet sweepings etc) and at least one large bag of plastic waste a week, sometimes more, even though we turn down as much plastic as possible, use our own bags, reuse as much as we can, etc.

Apart from the micro plastics that find their way into the oceans, there's an awful lot of stuff that gets there just from people not bothering to dispose of things properly. The last time I was at the beach I ended up swimming with both hands full of floating plastic bags, bread wrappers, some stuff so degraded it was impossible to tell what it had once been.

Take your litter home, sort it properly and dispose of it responsibly.

Petition duly signed.

Invalid CSRF

4 ( +4 / -0 )

My bigger problems are meat/fish and PET bottles, as a child meat/fish came wrapped in paper very little waste, renewable, I hate those styrofoam trays and PET bottles oh and milk cartons both a waste,

What is "child meat/fish"?

By the way, those Styrofoam trays are totally recyclable, wash them off, let them dry, and take them back to the store where you bought the product from, as most major supermarkets, and many smaller one's as well, have recycle bins with the express purpose of reusing them after disinfecting them.

 Japan is so small and densely populated that home delivery of milk in full size reusable bottles is highly feasible. 

Hardly, we used to get home delivery of milk, in bottles, many years ago, but the cost is not worth it any more.

It is not as feasible as you think.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

We collect the PET bottles and Styrofoam containers and return them to the store which has different bins for items including the tops off the PET bottles. Once a week we have collection for glass bottles, beer cans and PET bottles. Once per month for electronic items for recycling.

We always refuse the milk samples door callers offer.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@Kumagaijin

I don't know how you are living but that is some statement about every single foreigner! I have been in Japan for 30 years, family of 4 (now 2 adult children) I have never had to do anything of that sort. Generally one 35 litre bag twice a week, recycle twice a months and non burnable is twice a month but I may put out once a month at most! Perhaps you need to rethink your purchasing habits.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Japanese packaging is necessary. When u buy the item, u open it, u can still use it any time u want and also can give it to anyone u want because it's not used as it is still packaged inside.

Whereas in Western packacking, once u open it, u either need to finish it all or just throw the leftover or has to struggle finding it plastic to keep it for next time. Not a problem with Japanese packaging.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

Can someone please explain how my candy wrapper plastic is going to end up in the ocean?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@Yubaru

Sue me I forgot a coma! Styrofoam is petroleum based recyclable yes needs more energy cause more pollution, etc. As form milk, environment or cost! So you save a fee yen and is is realm just a few yen, at what cost to the environment? Then there is the garbage, your taxes go up as the amount if ever increasing cost of collecting more and more garbage. This is the problem with people they see only what is directly obvious. Milk ¥200 in glass bottles delivered or ¥180 in carton at the store. They forget that carton needs to be picked up that is your taxes paying, same goes for everything you toss out. Reduce the amount of garbage reduce cost to the city and taxes stay lower. Short term vs long term.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

@BackpackingNepal

What a silly comment it’s amazing. People can just wrap them in aluminium paper or plastic films for conservation which the majority of households own anyway.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Got a typical example of the pseudo moralistic attitude many businesses have to the environment-

Went for an ice coffee at Starbucks. The coffee is served in a plastic cup even though I drank it inthde shop. Gum syrup and creamy stuff alsM available only inindividual plastic containers…

.…but the straw was paper!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Japan sorely needs a garbage revolution. The overly luxurious wrappings for candy is such nonsense.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Biscuits and snacks are not individually wrapped in many countries. The ones you don’t eat you put in a tin for later, that’s how the rest of the world manages. Things are horribly over packaged here, it’s ridiculous.

Agreed, but don’t forget the high humidity. Things mould incredibly fast here in this season. I don’t think it justifies the excess use of plastic however. As mentioned in the article, there is also the Glico Morinaga and similar incidents. It’s easy to do a flat out comparison, but countries will always be different. Luckily things are changing slowly bit by bit!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

all that extra wrapping It is called Germaphobia.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@kutan. You should not get mouldy food in an air tight containers, we have never had an issue with mouldy snacks. If you are worried about mould buy some of those desiccating sachets.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Reduce the amount of garbage reduce cost to the city and taxes stay lower. Short term vs long term.

Lol, you obviously dont have a family to feed! And you have ZERO idea about taxes here too!

Sue me I forgot a coma! 

CHILD fish/meat...missing a comma? Where?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

.…but the straw was paper!

Yes you consumed the drink in the Starbucks from a plastic cup. But when you got to the bottom of the cup and the paper straw was falling apart you could think to yourself how wonderful you are for putting up with such an inconvenience in order to save the world from environmental destruction. You could achieve the amazing feat of reviving the planet through your single act of sacrifice. The feeling of self importance would have been so intoxicating as to render the opinions of naysayers sacrilegious.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

I was first horrified by the amount of excess plastic and packaging used when I arrived in Japan in 1993. Dunkin Doughnuts wrapped each doughnut in its own plastic, put them in a box, then put the box in paper bag, then put that bag in a plastic bag. Then taped it!

Thank goodness for this high school student who was equally horrified and decided to do something about it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@ daiko_hak

And where will u get aluminium paper or plastic when u're outside walking/transporting/relaxing? Waste time to search around?

When people open the Western snack, either they had to finish all or throw away or use another plastic/paper to keep it which some people may not even use it. Money waste, time waste, plastic waste, and also sharing problem.

Whereas in Japanese packaging, u just keep the rest in your bag or can easily give it to the people u want to. It also shows the brand details and their hardwork description on the wonderful package. Also, most of those packaging are eco friendly reusable/recyclable.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

@Yubaru

read I wrote: as a child, meat/fish came wrapped in paper very little waste, renewable.

Now I know very difficult to grasp!

Again read! I wrote clearly a family of 4!

English may not Becky fist language but obviously I have a better grasp of it than you as well as a better understanding of taxation.

More services more taxes. A very simple concept.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Ever brought a packet of peanuts or crisps? The large plastic bag is only about 20% full. 80% is unneeded plastic.

And that's while they will continue to individually wrap, whether its real plastic or some "plant-based" plastic. They want to fool you into thinking there is actually something to eat in there.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

*while - why

JT needs an edit feature.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think Japan is inventive and I noticed a lot of brilliant things when travelling through the country. But I do believe that the tradition of giving omiyage is strong. So, I was thinking why it wouldn't be possible to make two different ways of packaging, one for family use and one for omiyage. :) It's good for the brands to show they care about the environment and yet they can still contribute to the omiyage culture. This will, in the long run, be better for the environment and people are given the freedom to choose. Maybe in time, people are transitioned far enough to abandon the extra packaging all together.

Just a thought.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

English may not Becky fist language but obviously I have a better grasp of it than you as well as a better understanding of taxation.

Doubtful, as more services does not automatically equate to more taxes. Your assumption, learn about Japan, then come back and try again.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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