Photo/Illutration Paper-made, easy-to-refill containers for shampoo, body soap and other agents developed by Nippon Paper Industries Co. are shown on June 26 in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward. (Eisuke Eguchi)

Papermakers are viewing the anti-plastic trend as a golden opportunity to pitch “eco-friendly” paper products and rebound from depleted demand for publications and other printed articles.

Following the drive to eliminate plastic straws, store operators in July were obliged to charge customers for plastic bags to help reduce the amount of plastic waste polluting the world’s oceans.

The paper companies are not only trying to replace plastic straws and bags but also other products long made of plastic.

Nippon Paper Industries Co. in February started selling paper-made refillable containers for shampoo and other agents.

The vessels mainly targeting accommodation facilities are expected to cut plastic use by 25 to 40 percent compared with conventional pouches, company officials said.

“We have received inquiries from environment-conscious hotel operators,” an official said.
Nippon Paper Industries has also developed milk cartons for school meals that allow students to drink the beverage without the use of straws.

The company is looking to earn tens of billions of yen (hundreds of millions of dollars) in sales of plastic-alternative items.

Oji Holdings Corp. in January announced that its paper packages were adopted for Kit Kat chocolate bars of Nestle Japan Ltd. as substitutes for their plastic predecessors.

Oji Holdings late last year released a transparent paper file that has 70-percent less plastic content. It is now developing an oil-resistant, waterproof handbag from paper.

The paper industry has been suffering from its own problems.

According to the Japan Paper Association, domestic consumption of paper and cardboard dropped 20 percent over the past 10 or so years.

In particular, demand for copy paper, notebooks and other kinds of products for printing purposes fell by more than 30 percent during the 20 years through 2019.

“I want to make people understand that paper is friendly to the environment because it is an excellent recyclable material,” Toru Nozawa, chairman of the association who is also president of Nippon Paper Industries, said at a news conference in June. “I hold high expectations for use (of paper) to replace plastics.”

(This article was written by Eisuke Eguchi and Takao Shinkai.)