Japan and its Plastic

by Cath

During my trip to Japan, there was something that truly impressed me and not in a positive way. The amount of plastic used is insane. Nothing would have me prepared for the amount of packaging used in Japan that could be easily reduced.

Some examples:

  • Most of the cookies were packaged individually and then all bundled in one another package. Unfortunately this already happens in Portugal but I believe the proportion is way smaller, since in Portugal three cookies equals to one package instead of one cookie equals to one package (as seen in Japan)
  • Some individual ice creams had one package of plastic, like we see in Portugal, however the plastic package was contained within one paper box
  • Every manga (Japanese comic books) were individually wrapped in plastic – I understand that this is to avoid people reading them and damaging them but still caused me some confusion
  • For each yogurt/jelly that was bought in combinis, you would be given one plastic spoon wrapped in plastic – sometimes practical but mostly exaggerated
  • If you buy breads of different types in a Japanese bakery, each of the breads will be put in a different small bag. Which means that if I buy one wholemeal bread + chocolate bread -> 2 bags, plus one bag to put the breads
Plastic package of Japanese cookies

One package for each cookie, plus one package for all the cookies, and if you take a look, you’ll see a plastic “plate” that allows all the cookies to be organized

Japan is very strict with its recycling: everything needs to be correctly separate otherwise the trash is returned back to the person who separated it (it’d be very good for Portugal to have this kind of system, it’d prevent people for putting whatever they want in the recycling bin). However, wouldn’t it better to Reduce, rather than Recycle more? Reduce is the most important of the 3 R’s. And all this recycling has an extra cost associated with it, which reducing trash doesn’t have.

As I only went to Japan in vacation, my perspective is very limited, but I couldn’t help to put some thought into this. As a person that tries to do better for the environment, it was truly shocking.

Maybe outside of the cities, everything is different, it usually is. Traveling to a country never means actually knowing it, specially since I follow a Japanese person on instagram which is zero waste.

If you ever visited (or lived in) Japan? What do you think? I’d love to know what other people think of this!

If you’re interested in more posts about Japan check them out here. In case you want to know more about my journey to reduce waste click here.

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