The number of plastic shopping bags used annually at the Mie University Co-op is on track to being reduced by a remarkable 95 percent, the university's Student Committee of the Environmental Management Office reports. The reason: in January 2008 the co-op started charging shoppers five yen (about 5.1 U.S. cents) for each plastic bag.
According to a survey conducted at the end of June 2007, some 200,000 plastic shopping bags were being handed out at the co-op annually. That number, however, is estimated to have decreased to 9,320, based on the results of a survey in January 2008. The amount saved in a year was calculated to be equivalent to about 3,500 liters of oil, or nine tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
Prior to implementing the charge for plastic bags, the committee organized a design contest for environmentally friendly reusable bags. After awarding the best designs through voting by co-op members, the committee had reusable shopping bags manufactured and then distributed one to each student and staff member of the university in December 2007. These efforts raised awareness of the impact of plastic shopping bags among shoppers and contributed to reducing their use. The committee plans to continue encouraging shoppers to use reusable bags and will conduct follow-up surveys to monitor the use of plastic shopping bags.
source: Japan for Sustainability