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Japan has recently issued an order for all retail owners across the country to charge customers for the use of plastic bags. The move is quite significant as it is an attempt by the government to reduce the amount of plastic waste in a nation, that is obsessed with plastic wrappings and cases, which is now affecting oceans and burdening marine life.

Japan, an island country, has been subjected to intense domestic and international pressure to reduce the plastic bags across the nation to showcase its commitment to fight climate change and ocean pollution. Almost 8 million metric tonnes of plastic annually flows into the oceans, and has been causing severe threats to the marine ecosystem and had also become subject of international concern.

From now on, anyone who shops at convenience stores, departments where single-use plastic was distributed free earlier, the customers will be charged as much as 3 Yen for a standard bag. The government will also be handing out complimentary reusable bags in advance to encourage shoppers to use them. It is also worth noting that, even with the new rule, japan will continue to generate a large amount of plastic overall, as single-use plastic forms very small portion of millions of plastic waste produced annually, which is roughly 9 million tonnes.  However, the move is still worth an applaud, as in a country where the seafood is a part of staple diet, decomposed micro-plastics entering the food chain, and reducing plastic disposals in the Japanese waterways has been a major environmental concern.  

Japan has also announced its cooperative efforts with United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), to tackle the plastic pollution across Asia and support post-conflict environmental recovery in Iraq and South Sudan, and will also contribute the US $6.9million for four UNEP led projects. The bulk of the funding will fund a second phase of the countermeasure Project, which is determining the origins of plastic pollution in some of Asia’s major rivers and has supported the establishment of local partnerships for reducing plastic pollution. The first phase will also trace sources of pollution in Mekong and Ganges river, and allows for bespoke policy recommendations to governments to help stop plastic pollution where it is leaking into waterways.

Japan’s grant is intended to bolster the Country’s MARINE Initiative toward the realization of the Osaka Blue Ocean Vision, aimed at reducing plastic litter in the oceans to zero by2050, which was announced in G20 Summit in Osaka in 2019.

Thus,  Japan’s official domestic policy still remains regulatory incentives, to discourage further consumer use of single-use plastic, promotion of recycling, including encouraging voluntary  efforts by industries that use plastic to improve their recycling rates and preserve their pristine environment.                        

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The author graduated in Economics and Political science and is currently pursuing her Master's in East Asian Studies from University of Delhi. She is quite keen in understanding diverse foreign policies and societies and their impact on Global Geopolitics.

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