Plastic. It’s pretty inescapable here in Japan. But a growing movement is pushing back against the plastic-wrapped culture of disposable cutlery and cups. We have seen some success in the last few years. 2020 saw the adoption of a long-awaited fee for plastic bags, and the adoption of this policy has been surprisingly smooth in most places.
Towards a Zero Waste World
Plastic is omnipresent in almost all of our packaging, not to mention the disposable utensils we use without a second thought in cafes. What’s more, the paper cups available in almost all of our favorite coffee chains might seem like harmless recyclables, but these cups have a secret.
To prevent paper cups from becoming waterlogged after just a few minutes of use, they are lined with plastic during the manufacturing process. While this may keep your cup safe from the liquid inside, it means that these cups are non-recyclable!
It’s exactly for this reason that more consumers are turning their backs on single-use products and instead opting to bring their own cups and cutlery when they go out to eat.
Why Does it Matter?
As you read this, there are millions of tons of plastic floating in the ocean. 16 billion paper cups litter the planet (not to mention the 500 billion plastic cups), and the production of disposable chopsticks continues to push deforestation in Asia.
Not only is litter an eyesore when we spot it scattered around the countryside, but the production and disposal of plastic products has huge implications for the health of our environment.
Not all of these plastics are visible. Microplastics have been discovered in almost every part of the planet. Traces of plastic microfibers have also been found in water supplies, the air, and even inside the stomachs of animals.
Until big corporations can find a way to reduce their plastic use, it’s down to consumers to reduce our reliance on single use plastics.
Where to Get Your Reusable Products
Reusable cutlery and cups have been around for a while, but more and more products are hitting the market. Starbucks has long encouraged people to bring their own mugs and flasks. If you’re interested in picking up a nice reusable flask, every spring Starbucks puts out a new cherry blossom themed product. These tumblers are environmentally friendly, and a fun way to remember the beautiful blossom throughout the year.
Most coffee shops have also started stocking paper straws instead of plastic. But if you get a bit frustrated by your paper straw soaking up your drink, it might be a good idea to invest in a reusable straw. Metal, hard plastic, and even bamboo options have become popular.
When it comes to eating, there is usually a reusable option on the market too. Most chopstick brands stock simple bento-style carry cases to bring your cutlery with you – so there are few excuses for sticking with single use wooden chopsticks.
It’s Time to Make the World a Better Place
While it might not seem like a big change to make – every action makes a difference. While you might just be one person, the choices you make over your lifetime will add up. So, let’s all work hard to make the best decisions for our planet.