[Update, June 8] Lawson and Family Mart have announced that all plastic bags will cost ¥3 from July 1. Both chains have also reduced their selection of plastic bags: Family Mart changed its lineup from seven different types to four, Lawson from eight to three. 7-Eleven, on the other hand, will charge ¥3 for small, medium, large and bento bags, or ¥5 for an extra-large bag.
From July 1 2020, stores in Japan will start charging a fee for single-use plastic bags, under a new national law designed to tackle the country’s overwhelming quantity of plastic waste. Japan uses between 30 to 50 billion plastic bags a year – that’s more than 300 bags per person each year – hence reducing non-recyclable plastic waste has become a government priority.
Some supermarket chains have already begun charging customers for plastic bags while others give discounts to those who bring their own reusable bags. The new law, however, makes bag fees mandatory and it applies to all supermarkets, convenience stores and retailers.
The new law doesn’t require retailers to charge a specific price, but the minimum fee is ¥1 per bag. At most stores that are currently charging for plastic bags, the fee is ¥5-¥10 for one bag. Plastic bags made from plant-derived resin components and those that are marine biodegradable are exempt from the fee.
But the best way to cut out single-use disposable bags is to bring your own reusable shopping bag – and if a store employee asks if you need a bag, simply say: fukuro wa iranai desu ('I don’t need a bag'). Here's a list of Japanese phrases to help you politely decline plastic bags, disposable coffee cups and more in Japan.
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