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Shops should charge for plastic bags to combat waste: environment minister

TOKYO -- Stores should stop providing customers with plastic shopping bags for free to reduce plastic waste and reduce marine pollution, Environment Minister Yoshiaki Harada told reporters at a group interview here on Oct. 4.

The minister indicated his intention to work toward this goal, and ask relevant industry bodies to cooperate.

In Japan, some 30 billion plastic bags are estimated to be consumed every year. Retailers are encouraged but not required to charge for the bags to reduce this number. Some supermarkets in certain regions do charge for the bags, while convenience and drug stores have been reluctant to do so for fear of losing customers.

Harada said that environmental and economic measures "are not mutually exclusive."

Prevention of marine pollution by plastic waste will be discussed at the June 2019 Group of 20 summit to be held in Osaka in western Japan. The Ministry of the Environment is drafting a strategy for recycling plastic resources to be presented at the international meeting. The ministry intends to incorporate numerical targets for the reduction or recycling of plastic products in the strategy. Such goals were not adopted at an earlier Group of Seven summit of industrial countries.

(Japanese original by Kazuhiro Igarashi, Environmental News Department)

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