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Environment ministry to call for single-use plastic ban in all gov't facilities

The Central Government Building No. 5, where the Ministry of the Environment is located, is seen in this photo taken in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, on Oct. 14, 2015. (Mainichi/Kimi Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- The Ministry of the Environment is set to call for all ministries and agencies to prohibit the use of disposable plastic tableware at their cafeterias and for shops inside government buildings to cut down on the use of plastic bags, as part of efforts to tackle plastic waste pollution.

In a panel meeting of experts on Oct. 30, the environment ministry presented a draft proposal to revise a basic policy under the Act on Promoting Green Purchasing. The law requires the government and other entities to procure goods and services with less impact on the environment. The proposal is part of a measure to reduce marine pollution caused by plastic waste, which has become a worldwide issue.

The proposal allows cafeterias operating in government buildings to use only reusable tableware. It forbids the use of single-use plastic products, like cups, bottles and drinking straws, when outsourcing conference management. Government facilities will have to take into account if shops selling coffee and other beverages can offer reusable containers, when deciding on contracts. It also requires shops distributing shopping bags to use those made of plant-derived biomass plastic.

The environment ministry plans to revise the basic policy by the end of fiscal 2018, and eyes a full-scale implementation from fiscal 2019 when negotiating with business operators for contracts.

The government is currently working out a strategy for reducing and recycling plastic products. It specifies measures to reduce plastic waste, which will mandate retail shops to charge for plastic shopping bags.

(Japanese original by Kazuhiro Igarashi, Environmental News Department)

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