Changing shopping bags Will society change? July 1, 20:25

“Each shopping bag costs 3 yen per bag. What would you do?”…I think many of the people at the convenience store asked right away. In order to reduce plastic waste, retail stores across the country have been obliged to pay for plastic shopping bags. However, the price of the shopping bag and whether to charge it or keep it free vary depending on the business format and the material of the bag used. As a consumer, it seems that there are different ways of thinking about whether to use a shopping bag even if you pay 3 yen per bag, or carry your own bag with this opportunity. We followed the latest trends in bags, which are essential for shopping. (Kei Nakazawa, Kenta Shimai)

The scene of the convenience store has changed

July 1, morning. A convenience store in Tokyo. Every time the clerk made a purchase, he told the customer that the shopping bag was changed to a paid one, and asked if a bag was needed. It is a scene that has never been seen before. There are a variety of people, such as those who bring back purchased products as they are, those who pack products in their own bags and bring them home.

One of the shoppers said, "I'm concerned about the impact on the environment, so I would like to bring my bag as much as possible in the future."

What kind of bag is charged?

Shopping bags that have been free until now, except for supermarkets. From July 1, all stores that handle plastic shopping bags, including convenience stores, supermarkets, clothing stores, bookstores, and commercial facilities, have been obliged to pay the fee. However, the response varies depending on the industry and company.

Not all bags are charged. The main points of whether or not to be paid are "material", "whether or not to have a handle", and "whether or not to put the product". As for materials, plastic bags made from fossil resources such as petroleum are the target, and if the biomass material such as plants is 25% or more, it is not applicable.

Also, bags that do not have a "handle" are not included. For example, a transparent bag containing fresh food that you can cut around by turning around in a supermarket is also free. In addition, it is not applicable when the contents of the bag are not products such as gifts and free samples. Relatively thick bags with a thickness of 0.05 mm or more that can be used repeatedly are also excluded.

Which store is charged? Is it free?

For the time being, most supermarkets and convenience stores are expected to be charged, but we will take a closer look at each type of business.

【convenience store】

Three major companies, Seven-Eleven Japan, FamilyMart, and Lawson, will charge a fee of 3 yen per shopping bag, except for some. Actually, the three companies use "bags containing a certain amount of biomass materials" that are not subject to charge, but from the perspective of reducing plastic waste, it will be paid together.

On the other hand, Secoma, which develops "Seiko Mart" convenience stores mainly in Hokkaido, will use free bags for the time being as well, using bags made of materials that are not subject to charge.


At major companies, Ito-Yokado has already paid for shopping bags at food counters since February 2013, but from the 1st day it will be charged not only for food but for all counters. Aeon has already paid for shopping bags at food stores since November 2013, but this April, we switched to pay at all sales counters. Seiyu will charge all shopping bags from the 1st.

【Department store】

Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings will stop offering plastic shopping bags free of charge at directly-operated food counters and start offering paid paper bags from 1st of this month.

Why is it charged even though it is a paper bag? When I asked the company, I found that the product was made 20% thicker than before so that it can be used repeatedly even after shopping, and it is water-resistant to make it sturdy. The price is 30 or 50 yen depending on the size. It is a unique launch of a department store that appeals to a high class. We will continue to provide free paper bags at the clothing and sundries counters.

Takashimaya has stopped providing grocery bags free of charge at the grocery store from April this year, and has switched to a paid service.

Sogo Seibu charges plastic shopping bags and paper bags at all sales floors from the 1st.

[Dining out]

The most distinctive feature is the restaurant chain. At Sukiya, Yoshinoya, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Royal Host, and others in the gyudon chain, we will continue to distribute them free of charge by using bags made of materials that are not subject to charge. Why stick to free? I asked the person in charge of Yoshinoya.

This means that the Yoshinoya uses a bag of the optimal shape for each beef bowl and set meal container so that the container does not lick inside the bag. If you put it in a bag that is too big, such as my bag, the soup and contents may spill, and considering hygiene and safety, it is best to use the bag provided by the company.

Certainly, it seems to be a resistance for consumers to put "tsuyudaku" beef bowl and miso soup in my bag and bring them home.

In addition, due to the influence of the new coronavirus, the number of customers who want to keep their staying time in the store as much as possible has increased, and the number of customers to take home has increased, but there is a concern that checking the necessity of bags at the cashier will extend the staying time, so from the beginning It seems that they decided to provide a dedicated bag for free.

In fact, concerns over infection risk have emerged as a new challenge for paying. In some convenience store chains, in order to avoid the risk of infection, in the case of my bag, shoppers call for themselves to pack the product.

However, it is difficult to provide a space for bagging inside a small convenience store, and how to prevent the crowded condition during the daytime when many customers visit is also an issue.

On the other hand, for the food service chain and for the donut chain Mr. Donuts, since April this year, there has been a charge for each of the izakaya chain Kushikatsu Tanaka from the 1st, and the support for eating out has been divided.

What is the effect of paying?

The purpose of charging plastic bags is to reduce plastic waste. How effective is that effect?

According to the Japan Chain Stores Association, as many supermarkets already charge shopping bags, the percentage of people who do not use shopping bags at the supermarket = decline rate is 57.21% as of March, 10 years ago It is more than double. It can be said that paying has a certain effect in reducing shopping bags.

However, according to the Japan Plastic Recycling Association, etc., the amount of plastic waste in Japan in 2018 was about 8.91 million tons, and most of it was PET bottles and food containers. It is estimated that plastic bags account for 2 to 3% of this. For this reason, reducing plastic bags alone does not lead to reducing overall plastic waste.

Even if plastic bags are reduced by paying, it may be a "small step" for the environment. However, if the lifestyle in which people carry their own bags becomes widespread, it may lead to a reduction in the amount of plastic used in large quantities without realizing it every day. I am paying attention to how the society will change as the shopping bag costs 3 yen.

Kei Nakazawa, Reporter, Ministry of Economic Affairs
Joined in 2011
, currently works at Fukushima and Fukuoka stations

Economics reporter
Kenta Shimai
Joined in 2012,
currently works at Miyazaki and Morioka stations