SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English
XIE Zhihai “Challenge for Plastic Reduction”
Last year I wrote an essay about “Charging for shopping bags at supermarkets in Japan” and lifestyle where people go shopping with “eco bag” (reusable shopping bag). As Gunma Prefecture where I live is motorized society, people go shopping with both shopping basket and eco bags. It means that it is necessary for them to use shopping basket or eco bags. Situation has changed.
However, is it true that the amount of household garbage has decreased by charging shopping bags? We cannot see any change in the amount of garbage a week.
I found an article “Contradiction! Buying garbage bags refuging shopping bags” in AERA (weekly magazine issued on June 14, 2021). People, who used to utilize shopping bags as garbage bags or compost bags changed to bring eco bags and buy garbage bags on a chargeable basis. Plastic bags which are used in supermarkets or convenient shops in Japan can be used as garbage bags and a lot of people utilize plastic bags as garbage bags. There was a comment written that people began to utilize their small transparent plastic bags (free) very often not to make their eco bags dirty.
I think many people feel disagreement in their daily life for having eco bags. I am annoyed at whether it could decrease the amount of garbage. According to AERA, Ministry of the Environment（England）reported in 2011 that, in order to achieve “Possibility of Global Warming”, it would be necessary to use eco bags 131 times to decrease shopping bags. It is appreciated to have such concrete figure and people may think that they should get rid plastic bags. It is said that a lot of people keep many eco bags now and I realized there are a variety of eco bags in my house too.
Reason why we feel denial is we cannot solve our own question whether we are “eco” or not?
In other words, we cannot decide whether we should buy chargeable eco bags or bring plastic bags. Yes, there are a lot of goods beside shopping bags which are made by plastic. AERA raised a question on this point and gave a clear answer finally saying that “it is important for us to be conscious of “eco” in total (not only by shopping bags)”. If people go to shopping by bicycle despite bringing shopping bags, they are considered as “eco”. I had strange feeling when a friend of mine received disposable chopsticks and spoon as a matter of course. He bought lunchbox and yogurt and declined to receive shopping bag. If he was conscious of eco, he should have denied receiving both chopsticks and spoon. If chopsticks and spoon were not free, he might bring them both.
I think it’s OK as far as shopping bags would trigger for reduction of garbage. Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (Japan) are putting together their new ideas of charging for waste disposal into materialization and are aiming for its introduction in April 2022. It is said that twelve items not only the items for eating but hangers of dry-cleaner’s, toothbrushes and hairbrushes of hotels would be also added. I expect consciousness for disposable would be raised when the new idea is implemented.
When people would take care progressively what they can do in their daily life, and which means they participate in “eco” activity.
SGRA Kawaraban 680 in Japanese (Original)
XIE Zhihai / Assortiate Professor, Kyoai Gakuen University
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Sabina Koirala