Intellasia East Asia News – Japan’s Plastic Waste Issue Boosts Grocery Novelty

Japanese shoppers are increasingly able to take reusable containers to purchase food and other items by weight or volume to reduce the amount of plastic packaging they bring home from the supermarket while reducing the food waste.

Japanese consumers face an overwhelming amount of plastic packaging when shopping in supermarkets compared to other countries, leading some companies and their loyal customers to make an eco-friendly change.

In various parts of the country, people are bringing their own reusable containers to stores and buying only what they need, while a scale manufacturer has developed a device that automatically identifies and weighs products to meet growing demand for a new way to shop in department stores. stores.

The Poco Mucho specialty store, which opened in the southwest Japanese city of Fukuoka in April 2020, sells some 200 different foodstuffs and necessities by weight, such as smoked pistachios at 80 yen apiece. 10 grams and peanut butter at 55 yen for the same amount. .

Buyers pay for the products after weighing them in a paper bag or bottle provided by the store. Customers get a 3% discount if they bring their own bags or containers.

“I rinse my little bottle when it’s empty and bring it back with me when I get back,” said a 38-year-old nurse who regularly shops at Poco Mucho. “The attraction is that you can buy a little at a time, as much as you want to eat,” she said.

Motoki Yanase, Director of Poco Mucho, said, “I hope customers will increase their environmental awareness while shopping here.

Stores in Europe and the United States have already started making efforts to reduce plastic waste. In France, there has been a movement to phase out the use of plastics for packaging and product packaging.

In Japan, containers and packaging make up more than 60% of household waste by volume, according to the Ministry of the Environment, with supermarkets and other large retailers making it nearly impossible to avoid plastic when selling items, even fruits and vegetables. , in individual packages. .

The ministry says household waste can be significantly reduced if more shoppers bring their own bags and containers.

Shops in the Hagoromo shopping district in Tachikawa, western Tokyo, are offering incentives to encourage customers to bring their own bags and containers.

For example, Sayamaen, a Japanese tea retailer, distributes stickers, redeemable for future purchases, to customers who bring their own tea box.

“Here, eco-shopping is taken for granted by both customers and stores,” said Kazuko Ikeya, the 69-year-old manager of Sayamaen.

Among major retailers, Lawson Inc. sells candy and daily necessities in volume at 10 of its Lawson or Natural Lawson convenience stores in Tokyo and Kanagawa prefectures.

Kao Corp., a leading maker of toiletries and cosmetics, has launched a trial in which it sells detergents and fabric softeners in volume at selected pharmacies in Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures. Fruit retailer Dole Japan Inc. has set up spaces in supermarkets in and around Tokyo to sell bananas by weight.

But making the jump to these types of sales can be a slow process.

Machine maker Teraoka Seiko Co. is trying to meet the challenge by developing a measuring device equipped with artificial intelligence that automatically recognizes a vegetable or fruit on a tray using image diagnostic technology. Once he understands what the item is, he weighs it and prints a price tag.

Currently, individual vegetables and fruits of different sizes often sell for the same price as long as they have similar shapes. Because prices can now be determined by weight, “we can sell items that have been deemed non-standard,” a Teraoka official said.

“While individual product packaging is good for protecting quality, calls for behavioral changes to reduce plastic waste are growing,” said Toshiya Kayama, a senior researcher at Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting Co. familiar with the environmental issues.

“Measurement sales are likely to become mainstream because they are effective in attracting repeat buyers,” he said.

Category: Japan

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