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Japan bans single-use plastics at gov't facilities, but effect spotty

An Environment Ministry official brings her own tray when buying packed meals at a Chinese restaurant in the Central Government Building No. 5 in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, on April 1, 2019. (Mainichi/Ai Oba)

TOKYO -- The Japanese government is urging an end to single-use plastics at businesses in government buildings, but implementation has proven spotty, partly due to a lack of alternatives.

The approach is based on an amended basic policy under the Act on Promoting Green Purchasing that requires ministries and agencies as well as independent administrative institutions to procure goods and services with less impact on the environment.

Items including plastic grocery bags are placed on a table for customers who need them, in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, on April 1, 2019. (Mainichi/Ai Oba)

Disposable plastic utensils were banned from cafeterias inside government buildings in principle starting on April 1, and many workers have begun toting around reusable shopping bags. However, though staff were urged to reduce plastic waste as much as possible, stores still provided plastic bags to customers who needed them, and used plastic containers for packed meals due to a lack of alternatives.

A Chinese restaurant in the Central Government Building No. 5, that also houses the Ministry of the Environment, had already stopped providing plastic bags last October. One 44-year-old ministry official who bought take-out meals brought a tray with her.

She explained, "Many people bring their own grocery bags, but packed meals can tip over (and spill inside the bag). I don't have to worry about that with a tray."

(Japanese original by Ai Oba, Science & Environment News Department)

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