Japanese C-Stores Focus on Reducing Plastic Waste

The government urges all businesses to reduce and recycle.

April 06, 2021

Japanese Konbini Lawson Convenience Store

TOKYO—Japanese convenience stores are switching to paper packaging for various take-out foods, reports NHK World Japan.

Numerous Lawson outlets now use paper containers for some rice bowl dishes, and the chain will expand the program to 6,400 outlets by next month. Lawson aims to cut plastic waste by about 250 tons per year, building on the success of its paper cup initiative for iced coffee, launched in May 2019.

FamilyMart also began selling a grilled salmon dish in a paper box last month, reducing plastic by about 40% since only the lid is plastic. FamilyMart plans to use the new packaging to serve three other types of meals.

As more people buy cooked meals instead of dining out during the coronavirus pandemic, Japan has seen an increase in discarded plastic within the country, where land for waste is limited. In response, the Japanese government last week passed a bill to encourage businesses to reduce plastic use, reports Japan Times.

Already, many major c-store chains and foodservice operators were abandoning plastic utensils, such as spoons and straws, and some are using plant-based alternatives instead. Over the past two years, Seven-Eleven Japan and FamilyMart have changed the lids on their iced coffee products to lids that don’t require the use of straws in another effort to reduce the need for plastic.

Moves to reduce plastic have not been universal however, leading many to believe the government will soon require stores to charge customers for those items, similar to July 2020, when the government made it mandatory for retailers nationwide to charge consumers for disposable plastic shopping bags.

The Japan Franchise Association has urged the government to consider the issue carefully and warned against possible charges for such goods. An official of a major restaurant operation also expressed concerns that fees for plastic utensils and other items may cause restaurants to lose delivery service customers, which have grown during the pandemic.

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