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Kameoka city in Kyoto Pref. becomes 1st local body to seek to end plastic waste

Kameoka Mayor Takahiro Katsuragawa, third from right, shows off the "Kameoka zero plastic waste declaration" in Kameoka, Kyoto Prefecture, on Dec. 13, 2018. (Mainichi/Yoko Kunimoto)

KAMEOKA, Kyoto -- The city of Kameoka in this western Japan prefecture became the nation's first local body on Dec. 13 to declare that it will strive to completely get rid of plastic waste.

The municipal government and assembly released the "Kameoka zero plastic waste" declaration with a plan to enforce an ordinance banning local retailers from handing out plastic shopping bags for one time use by fiscal 2020. The city government is even considering introducing penalties for violators.

No other local body in the country has enacted a similar ordinance while the central government is poised to require retailers to charge customers for plastic shopping bags.

With the move, Mayor Takahiro Katsuragawa said the city "would like to influence the entire country."

Shoppers are seen carrying plastic shopping bags in this file photo taken in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. (Mainichi/Yohei Koide)

The declaration outlines a ban on plastic shopping bags for one time use and efforts to make sure that consumers carry reusable bags for shopping. It also clearly states that the city will strive to achieve the complete recycling of plastic waste generated by local households. Moreover, reusable dishes, plates and cups will be used at city-organized events.

The announcement states that the city intends to completely eliminate plastic waste by 2030 through these measures.

Kameoka had 760 retailers including supermarkets and convenience stores as of fiscal 2014, and the city intends to totally ban these establishments from handing out plastic bags to shoppers by the end of fiscal 2020 that ends in March 2021. Prior to that, the municipal government will require all these retailers to begin to charge customers for shopping bags by the end of fiscal 2019, and is already asking them for cooperation.

Osaka University of Commerce associate professor Sadao Harada, who has advised the municipal government over the compilation of the declaration, underscored the significance of the move. "A considerable amount of garbage in the sea has flown out of inland areas of the country. Kameoka will be a city with advanced (environmental) policies by issuing the declaration, and will encourage other regions to introduce a similar system," he said.

Kameoka, situated west of the ancient capital of Kyoto, is a bedroom community with a population of some 89,000. In 2012, the city became the first Japanese inland municipality to host an ocean garbage summit conference amid concern that the contamination of the sea with plastic waste has become a social problem.

(Japanese original by Yoko Kunimoto, Kyoto Bureau)

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