Now I’m certainly no tree-hugging environmentalist but I’ve been brought up to recycle whatever we can and also to re-use things frugally. At an old company it used to break my heart to see the amount of paper that was wasted daily in producing files etc.
One of the big problems in Japan is the fact that around 30 billion plastic bags are used each year. They are given out willy-nilly to you even if you only buy one little item and they are often thrown straight in the bin by customers as soon as they get outside the convenience store. At best, the assistant may ask you if you want a bag. At worst they will put all different items in separate bags with a big bag then used to accommodate all.
When I first came to Japan I remember being immediately shocked when I saw other teachers bringing back McDonalds with a paperbag each for the fries and drink and a plastic bag for the whole lot. Even more waste than usual for a company which has a lot of wastage in terms of cartons and cups etc. Other items like biscuits are also over-packaged with them sometimes coming individually wrapped in a plastic tray inside the outer plastic sheeting.
Japanese culture doesn’t have place for eating in public which may partly explain why so many bags are given out. Traditionally, purchases in this country have been considered part of the product and they pay for the complete package which in the present day may involve nothing more than just a plaggy bag sealed with a piece of tape.
Given their phone-book sized rulebook for waste disposal it’s a little surprising that the Japanese can’t be more eco-friendly regarding plastic bags especially as I see so many bags go straight in the bin as soon as the customer exits the convenience store with their coffee or whatever.
I mostly decline the bags but then I suffer more waste in terms of the piece of adhesive tape that the shop assistants stick on each individual item supposedly as a proof of purchase but it seems redundant to me as I’m also given a receipt!