Aug 12, 2018

Cutting down on plastic in Japan

One thing I noticed pretty quickly when I moved to Japan was just how much plastic gets used in day to day life here. From bentos to PET bottles...even bananas come wrapped in plastic here. I felt like even though I was recycling diligently, the amount of plastics that we were accumulating was more than at any other point in my life.


I've tried to take some small steps to try and reduce the amount of plastic I go through, and a lot of the steps I have taken are quite easy for anyone to implement into their day to day lives. Here are four ways I've tried to be more sustainable when it comes to my plastic consumption in Japan.

Using recyclable tote bags rather than plastic bags

This is something I did even before living in Japan, but here it has added benefit - not just for saving on plastic, but also from a money saving aspect. At most of the supermarkets I shop at here, plastic bags cost an extra 2 or 3 yen each. It may not sound like much, but over the course of weeks, months, even years, those few yen certainly add up! Japan has a range of adorable reusable tote bags, including ones with cute characters or prints on them - so being sustainable doesn't need to be boring!

Using solid shampoo bars instead of bottled shampoo

I had read a while back about shampoo bars, and I was always interested in the concept. I eventually came across them at Lush (there are stores across Japan), and there are varieties to suit a wide variety of hair types. You can also buy reusable tin containers to store your shampoo bar in - that way, it doesn't get wet in your shower and deteriorate faster. They also have a range of solid conditioners and even solid deodorant if you want to reduce your plastic consumption even more. If you don't have a Lush store near you, you can order off their website.

Cutting down on plastic in Japan photo

My (still slightly wet!) shampoo bar. The green stuff in it is seaweed! This is the "Seanik" bar, from Lush. You get about 80 washes per bar.

Giving bamboo toothbrushes a go

Have you ever thought about your simple plastic toothbrush, and how long they end up sticking around in a landfill? Bamboo toothbrushes are my new go-to, and it's nice to know that the handles are biodegradable. There are a range of bamboo handled toothbrushes that you can purchase on Amazon Japan.

Cutting down on plastic in Japan photo

If you're after a bamboo toothbrush, check Amazon Japan - these are just some of the options available.

Refilling bottles rather than buying new ones

One of the convenient things about Japan is that there are a lot of options available to just refill your bottles of cleaning supplies or even shampoos/conditioners and other beauty products. We've used the same plastic bottle for our dishwashing liquid since we moved out here to Niigata, and we just buy the large bags to refill it with. It also works out to be more economical buying the refills than buying a new bottle of dishwashing liquid each time, so you're helping your wallet as well as the environment.

Cutting down on plastic in Japan photo

We're still using the same detergent bottle we bought when we originally moved to Niigata - we just refill it!

Have you tried other ways to reduce your plastic consumption here? I'd love to hear about them if you'd care to share!



After spending the last several years in the beating heart of Tokyo, I will be spending the next three in the countryside of Japan. I adore this country and all it has to offer - and I'm always learning more and more about life here as I go along!


  • TonetoEdo

    on Aug 15

    I haven't bought plastic wrap or plastic bags in the last year. I'm relying on beeswax wraps which I was gifted (but are also available online), the poly bags that are used at supermarkets to collect loose veggies, and plastic bread bags. Some containers go in the fridge with a close fitting plate on top. I always go shopping with my own cloth bags or furoshiki, and I often have big plastic bags tucked in my purse for clothing and other household purchases that require clean bags. My challenge for the next month is to not purchase any okazu that comes in plastic cases. I'll try to either make my own from scratch (which is healthful besides), or only purchase prepared foods that I can package in paper wrappers. You know the kind? Like tempura or kurokke at the supermarket that goes in paper wrappers? That kind of thing.

  • genkidesu

    on Aug 16

    @TonetoEdo love ALL of your suggestions! I've seen those beeswax wraps and have been meaning to branch out to those as well. I used to think that I was only one person and my differences were only small, but if everyone makes small changes I really believe it adds up!