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Kyoto Pref. city to implement Japan's first plastic bag ban, with power to name offenders

Kameoka Mayor Takahiro Katsuragawa, center, and other officials are seen at a press conference to announce the "Kameoka Zero Plastic Waste Declaration" at Kameoka City Hall, Kyoto Prefecture, on Dec. 13, 2018. (Mainichi/Yoko Kunimoto)

KYOTO -- The Kameoka City Council in this western Japan prefecture unanimously approved an ordinance proposal on March 24 banning retailers from offering plastic shopping bags regardless of whether they are free of charge or not, the first measure of its kind anywhere in the country.

The ordinance will be enforced from Jan. 1, 2021, and an article included in it will enable the local government to publicly name businesses that flout the new rules from June 1 of the same year.

It also forbids retailers from offering bags made from paper or biodegradable materials for free. The city's mayor will be able to ask for reports from shops, and can send city government employees to conduct on-the-spot inspections.

Businesses found to be acting in contravention of the ordinance will be advised to rectify their practices, and in the event that they refuse inspections, provide false reports or refuse to comply with advisories from the local government, the business' name or the name of the business' representative can be released publicly as failing to comply with the ordinance.

Reports of noticeable amounts of plastic waste drifting onto the banks of the Hozugawa river, known for cruises taken down to Kyoto's Arashiyama district, spurred the Kameoka Municipal Government and the Kameoka City Council to release its "Kameoka Zero Plastic Waste Declaration" in December 2018. Its stated aims include banning shopping bags.

The municipal government had originally envisaged introducing the ordinance from Aug. 1, 2020. But because a national government law obligating retailers to make shopping bags chargeable is expected to be implemented on July 1 and thereby leave only a month between the two law changes, the city's retail businesses pushed for an amendment to allow for a greater period to raise awareness. The city complied, changing the date to Jan. 1, 2021.

(Japanese original by Kenji Yagura, Kyoto News Department)

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