Photo/Illutration Plastic garbage at a recycling center (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Convenience stores and fast-food chains will be obliged to charge for disposable plastic spoons, straws and forks from spring 2022 under legislation passed June 4 by the Diet to cut down on such garbage, an issue that has gained global prominence.

They were given the alternative of providing free utensils made of paper or wood.

Of the approximately 9 million tons of plastic garbage produced annually in Japan, about 100,000 tons consist of disposable plastic spoons and straws.

The law, which covers the production, sale and collection of plastic items, is designed to encourage greater recycling of plastic resources.

Small businesses would be exempt from the law, but major and midsize supermarket, convenience store and fast-food chains will be required to charge for plastic utensils or provide utensils made of other materials.

The central government will retain the authority to issue recommendations and orders if the steps prove to be insufficient.

Final details will be worked out and issued through Cabinet and ministerial orders, but other businesses that could be affected are dry cleaning companies that return clothes on plastic hangers and hotels that provide plastic amenities, such as toothbrushes.

Manufacturers of plastic products will be asked to reduce the amount used from the design and production stages. The government will also initiate a program to certify which products are easier to break down and recycle or have less plastic content.

Certified products will be able to display special logos.

Garbage collection programs handled by local governments will also be asked to encourage residents to be more vigilant in separating products that include plastic, such as stationery and toys, to ensure the material can be collected as recyclable garbage.