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Do you think stores should stop providing customers with plastic shopping bags for free to reduce plastic waste?

39 Comments
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Honestly, I miss paper bags. When I was young, we used them for many things after coming home. And they are biodegradable.

12 ( +14 / -2 )

ToshihiroToday  09:28 am JST

“Although plastic bags are useful for carrying wet and frozen groceries, they tend to be one-use items and end up in the landfill too quickly.”

Not in Japan where they usually end up in an incinerator.

I’ve been using my own reusable cloth bags for shopping for about a half-century and try to remember to always have at least a small one with me when I go out. Still, there’s the odd occasion of an emergency or unplanned purchase when I don’t have an adequately sized bag on hand. In those cases I have no problem with paying a small fee for a bag.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Although plastic bags are useful for carrying wet and frozen groceries, they tend to be one-use items and end up in the landfill too quickly. Paper bags, eco bags and durable and reusable plastic bags are the way to go. Let me share something here. There's a street close to our house that's situated between two hills and gets flooded quite easily. One rainy morning, the rains weren't hard at all but that street started to flood around shin deep and became impassable. I then saw a resident wading in the flood and started to clear the drain after which the floodwater started to drop after 5 mins. Avoid plastics whenever possible

7 ( +8 / -1 )

maybeperhapsyes, "Which I will then recycle."

How do you recycle that bag?

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I cannot think of a single shop around these parts that provides free plastic bags.

Some, like the Coop, charge ¥10 per bag.

Others give added loyalty points to customers who bring their own bag, or knock ¥2 off the total, which is basically the same as charging ¥2 for a bag.

I'd like to see it upped; charge a minimum of ¥50 per bag/knock ¥50 off the total/give more extra points etc.

(The trouble with loyalty points is that they don't affect the casual customer, for whom there is no benefit - apart from the satisfaction of being right - in refusing the bag)

I need a bag to take my purchases home.

We all do. The sensible answer is to always have a spare bag tucked away somewhere, either in your wallet or upon your person.

Which I will then recycle.

How? By chucking it in the プラ rubbish bin? You could recycle it by tucking it into your pocket for the next time you go shopping, though after a few uses it will succumb to wear and tear and will need to be chucked. So why not invest in a more sustainable, long-lasting bag in the first place?

There are only so many uses for used plastic bags around the home. I make a point of always having a bag on me when I go out (one lives in each of my handbags) and always refuse plastic bags in shops, yet I still have a container full of the things at home that I try to find uses for. The container never seems to get any emptier.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

@maybeperhapsyes

If you were so responsible, you'd use a fabric bags or bring back your plastic shopping bags to use.

By the way, good on you for recycling, but I recently found out Japan used to send out their plastics to china who has recently refused to accept it. Now it gets sent out to various other southeast asian countries. I wonder what they do to it. Burn it? As for PET bottles, no one wants them, and they are just piling up in Japan. Like radiation waste, they have no solution.

Think twice before using plastic everyone! I use it of course, because it IS very convenient, but please be reasonable!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Of course shops should stop providing plastic bags. If they want to give out bags use paper ones. I've said before in most shops in this area you are given a handful of bags at the till, even if you did want a bag you are given far too many. I carry my own bag, it's easy and you can get ones that fold up small enough for a pocket. It's very easy to carry bags in a car, I'm amazed to see drivers stuffing their vehicles with numerous shop carrier bags. Lazy and inconsiderate. In the shops that do charge, Max Valu and the Co-op, most people seem to have their own bags.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

@maybeperhapsyes

It's up to indiviuals to be responsible for their behaviour. As I am.

They are responsible, or rather, grossly irresponsible.

I go shopping and pay good money. I need a bag to take my purchases home. Which I will then recycle.

As you state later, you put them out in the rubbish to be taken away - usually burnt. This is not recycling.

I can do it. So should everyone else.

But you don't do it - you throw it away with the rest of your rubish.

Whether it's this or something else (sugar tax or stopping the sale of cheaper booze for examples) why am I being punished because a few morons can't sort themselves out?

In this case it is not a few morons, but the vast majority.

I'm not going to carry plastic bags in my pockets on the off chance I happen to go shopping.

No one says you have to - just pay 10 yen when you need a bag. When it has been tried in other countries, the demand for plastic bags dries up, despite the token charge.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Can you point to a single study showing that paper bags are more environmentally friendly than plastic? Because there dozens that conclude the opposite. Why do you suppose paper bags have slowly disappeared over the years in countries with strict environmental regulations?

Plain paper bags are biodegradable, unlike platic ones which are put in landfill or burned. Most paper can be recycled, household plastic cannot be recycled.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I am always taking my own textile bag when i go shopping and one or two paper bags i reuse several times from supermarkets. The paper ones i get when i bought more than planned. Every super in Japan has paper bags and plastic ones.

but the struggle is trying to stop the cashiers from pushing plastic bags, disposable plastic spoons, chopsticks, tissues etc on to you.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Not sure where that story was going bud???

Are you saying the drains were clogged up with plastic bags?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Paper bags, eco bags and durable and reusable plastic bags are the way to go. Let me share something here

But most Japanese households re-purpose plastic shopping bags for trash disposal. How do the households using eco-bags dispose of their trash? Do they end up buying dedicated plastic trash bags? If so, the whole point of eliminating plastic shopping bags is more or else redundant. It's just a feel good exercise unless you follow the entire chain all the way to the end and take every factor into account.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

most Japanese households re-purpose plastic shopping bags for trash disposal. How do the households using eco-bags dispose of their trash? Do they end up buying dedicated plastic trash bags?

I used to use old plastic shopping bags as rubbish bags. Then the 'sort your rubbish into nine or ten different types' thing came in (which is a good thing, don't get me wrong), and the local authority now refuses to collect any rubbish that isn't in a clear plastic bag, because they can't see without opening the bag that it's the right kind of rubbish. Most of the supermarket bags are white, or at best translucent (still not allowed).

So now I buy large clear plastic bin liners for plastic rubbish and burnable rubbish, tie newspapers, cardboard and pruned branches with string, put out large non-burnable items as is, put smaller items in the transparent bags that seem to accumulate even when you say No, and compost the kitchen waste.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Oh, and since all those different categories have to be separated, sometimes rinsed and dried (PET bottles, glass bottles, cans, and milk cartons), and put out on different days, we have categorized bins in the home to hold them until we amassed a quantity to fill up a bag to minimize the amount of plastic trash bags we use.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Absolutely. In fact, I think the price per bag should go up from 10 yen (those who charge it) to 50 yen in ALL shops, including convenience stores.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I bought a loaf of bread in a supermarket the other day and the cashier actually did ask me if I wanted a plastic carrier bag, which I declined. She said OK then went ahead and wrapped it in a small clear plastic bag. The loaf was already in a plastic wrapper ffs!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Educator60

I’ve been using my own reusable cloth bags for shopping for about a half-century

Can I ask how you collect and dispose of your household trash? Do you go out and buy plastic bags?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

M3M3M3Oct. 15  10:40 am JST

@Educator60

I’ve been using my own reusable cloth bags for shopping for about a half-century

Can I ask how you collect and dispose of your household trash? Do you go out and buy plastic bags?

—-

Before I had a chance to see your question Cleo described a similar situation, but yes, we do have to buy large plastic trash bags or bin liners (through the neighborhood associations or at any supermarket, home center or convenience store). This is because our city requires burnable trash to be put out in transparent bags of a soecific color. That allows rough confirmation at a glance that the type of trash is correct for that collection day and is also an important safety measure for the workers. However they are thinner than the typical supermarket bag so I would estimate that less plastic is being used than for an equivalent amount of trash put out in multiple supermarket bags. (They are also easier to store being of uniform shape and size and sold folded flat.)

Clear non-colored transparent bags are required by the city for other items such as small non-burnable items. Ditto PET bottles, cans, glass jars and bottles from food, and paper packaging collected for recycling. Depending on the quantity, we use either large purchased bags or the odd non-translucent supermarket bag that ended up in our home. Or for the paper packing, sometimes a large department store paper tote bag. Other items for recycling (cardboard, milk cartons, newspapers, magazines/catalogs/misc non-packaging paper) can be bundled with non-plastic string and don’t require a bag.

This city currently doesn’t recycle any plastic other that the PET bottles. Items over a certain size that can’t be broken up go out on large trash day. All other regardless of type, be it styrofoam cushioning, a hard plastic bucket, the soft plastic wrapping from a package of toilet paper, or a supermarket bag, go into burnable.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

And to add to charging a fee for plastic bags, Japan needs to cut down on their excessive packaging. Good Lord, the amount of plastic waste I take out for recycling is outrageous

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I take a reusable bag, or use a cardboard box. We drive to the supermarket though, and at 0.48MJ of energy per plastic bag, that is negligible compared to the energy used in the car. 10km driven in a car, typically one liter of gasoline is 34MJ, about 70 plastic bags. A 10% more efficient car will save seven plastic bags per trip. A hybrid will save thirty odd plastic bags worth of energy/pollution. My observation of society is that it is acceptable to judge someone on taking a plastic bag but not on their choice of car. Or how often they fly. Or whether they have the 400g steak, not the 300g one.

Its is also interesting to see the number of uses some reusable bags require to become more eco that single use. With cotton, it is over 100 times.

http://theconversation.com/heres-how-many-times-you-actually-need-to-reuse-your-shopping-bags-101097

Eco is good of course, actually essential I believe. We should focus on the big issues though, cars, houses, diet, air travel. Plastic bags are less important.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@M3M3M3

You ever take a look at that "burnable" rubbish pile? There is almost more plastic than there is "burnable" stuff

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Luddite

If they want to give out bags use paper ones

Can you point to a single study showing that paper bags are more environmentally friendly than plastic? Because there dozens that conclude the opposite. Why do you suppose paper bags have slowly disappeared over the years in countries with strict environmental regulations?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

some of the shops need some re-education here in Japan. Even if I offer a bag to put shopping into, some just smile and load up a carrier bag. Then the fight starts Trying to get everything into one bag, not household items in one and diy items to in another. I find the 100 yen and diy/household shops are the worst.

There will see providing a bag as good service.

if I need a plastic bag, I have no problem paying a few yen for one.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Want to have some fun? Try buying bras or underwear and refuse a bag. That's a good one. Never gets old. If you don't have that opportunity, buy shoes without a box and ask them to put all your shopping in one bag!

Great! I can finally turn these into positive memories!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

 buy shoes without a box 

The shoe shops round here ask if you want the box. I always say No. Never a problem.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Cleo

The point is not, not having them in a box. It's getting them to put loose shoes in a bag together with a clothing item

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Tempest in a thimble to deflect from the safety scandals, Abekuns idiocy, and keep the sheep with veils on their eyes.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My understanding is that paper production and its poisons are much more devastating to our environment than plastic bags. How about a ¥5-10 'deposit'. Want to bet the Nihonjin can design a machine which could 'read' and count plastic bags and return a redeemable receipt or even coins? It works well for other containers by the dearth of containers on the roads in areas which have such 'deposit' options. Before that program, beer and pop (soda) cans lined the highways of many states in the U.S. Not anymore.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@taj

How do I recycle the bag?

I put it out on a Wednesday with all the other plastics I use and it gets collected and taken away. What exactly happens to it then, I have absolutely no idea.

I presume...they "recycle" it??

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

I'm not going to carry plastic bags in my pockets on the off chance I happen to go shopping.

I'm a foreigner living in Japan. I do what I am told. I separate and put various items out on various days. What Japan decides to do with my waste is up to them. I have no say in the matter. It does disturb me that they would send it to poorer East Asian countries :(

By hey...who'd listen to me? I'm not Japanese and have zero voice.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

I've been paying for bags for some time. I never remember to bring my own! All I know is I hate plastic. But it seems we canno' live without it, not just bags...the mess is in everything!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

M3M3M3Oct. 15  07:42 am JST Maybe. Many supermarkets in other countries have stopped providing them. However, I think the jury is still out on the ultimate environmental impact. It sounds like a no brainer to help the environment but it could also turn out to be one of those 'freakonomics' cases where we eventually discover an uninteded consequence.

So, the jury is still out like with climate change?

There are no unintended consequences to not using plastic shopping bags. However, the problems with them, primarily that most still end up in landfills or, in the case of Japan, they are incinerated, are serious. This isn't one of those "on the one hand" issues. There is no reason Japanese can't all use cloth or nylon bags for groceries.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

What I'm always left wondering about in these debates is why there is so much vigorous support for charging for bags, yet almost no support for charging for parking.

Every customer can use bags; only those who can drive can use parking. Parking consumes huge amounts of space and driving to the store generates far more pollution than bag usage does.

Cars even double as free lockable storage space, so drivers can keep reusable bags in their car trunks -- easy for them to support making customers bring their own bags!

Regular people don't have that option if they suddenly need to go to the supermarket on their way home from work.

I'll accept paying for bags if people who drive cars to the supermarket also have to pay for parking. You can't make an environmental argument for the former while ignoring the latter.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

You ever take a look at that "burnable" rubbish pile? There is almost more plastic than there is "burnable" stuff

Sure, but the point is that it's not supposed to be there. Efforts are also made to remove it prior to incineration. No doubt some does get through though.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@ThonTaddeo

I'll accept paying for bags if people who drive cars to the supermarket also have to pay for parking.

So true! People who drive to the supermarket and load up their ecobags with meats and exotic foreign fruits and vegetables have a massive carbon footprint. Like anything, most people are only interested in making token changes that don't inconvenience them personally to any significant degree.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@Educator60

Thanks for the reply and explanation about the specific coloured bags. I've heard that from a few people but I've never experienced it personally here in Tokyo or Yokohama where I live. Here people put out their trash in all sorts of bags and as long as it's the correct day, your trash will generally be collected. I suppose if it's clear that you've mixed paper and plastic or you've put it out in one of those black bags they use in America, it might not be collected.

@Jeff Huffman

So, the jury is still out like with climate change?

Well, if you think the jury is out on climate change and using that analogy helps you better understanding my comment, then go ahead.

There are no unintended consequences to not using plastic shopping bags.

I'm glad you've done all the research and can tell us, without any equivocation, that there are no externalities associated with phasing out plastic bags.

in the case of Japan, they are incinerated

Plastic bags in Japan are not incinerated my friend. Why do you think we are asked to separate burnable and non-burnable trash? (hint: the plastic trash doesn't get burned). If you need more proof, just read the front page story today about plastic garbage piling up because it can't be exported.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Enough with this stupidity. Unless you are also going to end giving out other plastic items, you aren't saving the world in any way, shape or form by axing one item. Been to PH recently, and you're given a paper straw for a milkshake (for example), and 1/3 the way thru it, the straw turns to mush. Nobody is recycling either there, paper nor plastic.

As for Japan, they already lead the world in retail waste. McDonalds probably goes thru a small forest each year with the amount of paper bags they give out.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Maybe. Many supermarkets in other countries have stopped providing them. However, I think the jury is still out on the ultimate environmental impact. It sounds like a no brainer to help the environment but it could also turn out to be one of those 'freakonomics' cases where we eventually discover an uninteded consequence. Perhaps it will be found that bringing your own larger bag leads people to buy more groceries, which leads to more food waste, which leads to more overall CO² emissions, etc. These things should be studied carefully rather than everyone jumping onboard because of a trending social media campaign (like the plastic straw one which turned out to be based on incorrect data collected by a child for a school project).

-7 ( +3 / -10 )

No.

It's up to indiviuals to be responsible for their behaviour. As I am.

I go shopping and pay good money. I need a bag to take my purchases home. Which I will then recycle.

I can do it. So should everyone else.

Whether it's this or something else (sugar tax or stopping the sale of cheaper booze for examples) why am I being punished because a few morons can't sort themselves out?

-9 ( +11 / -20 )

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