Starting July 2020, during the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, Japanese retailers will start charging their plastic bags. Initially, the program was set for May 2020. Why not before the Olympics? (Image via The Japan Times)

Retailers in Japan to charge plastic bags starting summer 2020

On Friday, a panel, consisting of environment and industry ministries, agreed that starting 2020, all Japanese retailers are required to impose additional charge for plastic bags. The move, aiming to reduce marine plastic waste, was proposed in June during Group of 20 (G-20) Summit in Osaka, Japan.

The move included Japan to the list of countries that already charge its customers for plastic bags. In the document studied on Friday, the plan aims to build the habit for the Japanese people to bring their environmentally-friendly bags as a part of their lifestyles.

The plan exempts certain types of environmentally-friendly bags such as plant-based bags with at least 25% of biomass plastic. Bags that dissolve into water and carbon dioxide and reusable bags with a minimum thickness of 0.05mm are excluded in the plan. Also, a small bag to carry fish and meat products is excluded.

Regarding how much will a plastic bag be charged, the plan did not regulate any. In other words, the plan leaves the Japanese retailers to set their own prices.

The plan initially would start in May 2020. However, after several retailers asked for more time, the plan was moved to July 2020 instead. Some retailers pleaded that plastic bag for heated meal and soup be exempted from the plan, to which the panels disagreed.

In December, the Japanese government will also change some regulations related to plastic use after hearing public opinions.

The Japanese government adheres to waste-management by recycling. About 86% of its plastic waste is recycled. However, the recycling process is by incinerating the plastic, emitting mass carbon dioxide which triggers climate change.

Other than incinerating, Japan exports its waste for overseas recycling. However, the risks are it might end up dumped in the ocean, harming the marine life, or incinerated causing the same as the first.

In 2018, the Japanese government set that by a quarter of 2030, the country will have reduced around 9.4 tons of plastic waste.

During the G-20 summit, some Japanese environmental campaigners protested Japan’s tardiness in responding to the plastic issue, stating the data from the United Nations (U.N) that Japan has produced plastic waste per capita only bested by the United States (U.S).