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Reusable packaging initiative 'Loop' gearing up in Japan to fight plastic waste

Seasonings are seen in reusable glass jars in this photo provided by Ajinomoto Co.

TOKYO -- Twenty-three Japanese companies ranging from food to cosmetics firms are set to take part in an initiative beginning in 2021 to collect and reuse containers in a bid to reduce plastic waste.

    The project will focus mainly on glass containers, which are easy to reuse, with simple designs creating a sense of uniformity, setting them apart from regular retail products. As it gears up to begin in the Kanto region in eastern Japan in March 2021, eyes will be on whether consumers will accept the move.

    The initiative, titled "Loop," was created by U.S. recycling firm TerraCycle, and has operated in the United States, France, Britain and other countries since 2019. Consumers order products through a website the company operates, and then after they have used them, a delivery firm collects the containers, which are washed and reused. According to Yokohama-based subsidiary Loop Japan, around 35,000 households in the United States use the service.

    The Japanese firms set to participate in the project include Ajinomoto Co., Kirin Brewery Co., Shiseido Co., Unicharm Corp. and Earth Corp. Consumers pay for the cost of collection when they purchase the products. The firms also plan to sell the items at a dozen or so Aeon stores in Tokyo and other locations, and customers will be able to return the used containers to the stores.

    Ajinomoto Co. plans to sell three types of seasonings including its Hondashi soup stock product through Loop. The containers offered through Loop will all be glass, while the lids with be made of metal. "We gave them a simple and stylish design that people could display in their kitchens," an Ajinomoto official commented.

    Deodorizers are seen in reusable glass jars in this photo provided by S.T. Corp.

    S.T. Corp. is similarly using glass jars for deodorants that had been stored in plastic containers. It will also sell product refills, but a company representative commented, "There is no rubbish from the refill, so it's groundbreaking."

    A demonstration experiment started in Tokyo on Dec. 7, 2020, to sell boxed lunches and prepared food in durable plastic containers, which are collected at the stores that sell them and are reused.

    (Japanese original by Yuki Machino, Business News Department)

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