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Retail plastic bags becoming an environmental hazard in Japan

Retailers will receive warnings or have their names publicized if they fail to reduce the number of plastic shopping bags through such measures as charging customers for the service, according to the government’s final draft report on the issue.

Under the government’s plan to revise the Containers and Packaging Recycling Law, retailers, such as supermarket operators, will be required to submit a report on their efforts to reduce the number of shopping bags, which are increasingly becoming an environmental hazard, according to officials.

Companies will not be required to charge fees for the bags, but the measure will be included in guidelines for retailers on how to reduce the estimated 30 billion plastic bags circulating for free annually.

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Municipal governments have been asking the central government to reduce their financial burden in sorting and collecting discarded containers and packaging materials, saying the total cost for such efforts reaches 300 billion yen a year.

Currently, business operators, including retail store operators and food makers, pay fees to recycle plastic materials they have used. Any money left over after the recycling process is paid back to the business operators.

But the draft report says that the half of the money now returned to business operators should go to the municipal governments, the officials said.

It’s interesting to see this problem tackled by a country with a decent recycling infrastructure.