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Only half in Japan poll see use of plastic bags as excessive

A massive amount of plastic waste that washed ashore at a beach on the Sadamisaki Peninsula in Ikata, Ehime Prefecture, is seen in this file photo taken on July 4, 2018. (Mainichi/Yusuke Komatsu)

TOKYO -- Plastic products such as compartments in bento lunchboxes for separating food and plastic bags are considered examples of excessive service by just over half of respondents to a survey in Japan, according to results announced by the Cabinet Office.

With concerns around environmental damage caused by plastic waste rising, the survey included fields relating to concerns about plastic waste for the first time to raise awareness about the problem among consumers.

The survey was carried out via interviews, with 3,000 men and women aged over 18 approached over August and September. A total of 1,667 people, or 55.6%, responded.

When asked what plastic products and services they thought represented excessive use, with multiple answers permitted, 50.3% of respondents chose food compartments in bento lunchboxes that are thrown away after use. The second most prevalent response was plastic bags, identified as a problem by 50.1% of those surveyed.

In descending order, the most frequently chosen options after the top two were packaging and other protective material in deliveries, at 45.8%, followed by plastic straws and mixers at 44.8%. Hand fans distributed at events were deemed excessive by 35% of respondents, and plastic bottles were considered so by 27% of those who answered.

With the number of those who felt the use of plastic bags was excessive at only around 50%, it appears that the government may need to think of ways to improve awareness about plastic waste ahead of its intention to make it an obligation for businesses to charge consumers for plastic bags from July 2020.

With concerns around plastic waste issues, different industries have put forward products to replace items such as plastic straws with new wooden straws and other variations, and the practice is drawing more interest. But when respondents were asked what kind of conditions there would have to be for them to consider buying replacement products, just 13.7% said they would buy such items without consideration of price or quality.

Around 80% said that if the quality or price was around the same as plastic products, or if the quality was better, then they would buy the alternative items.

(Japanese original by Ayumu Iwasaki, Science & Environment News Department)

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