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Japan's paper companies offer sustainable alternatives to plastic

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

16 Sep 2021

Fashion

Image: Pexels

Any foreign visitor coming to Japan will notice how integral packaging is to its culture. The painstaking craftsmanship to wrap even the simplest of products is as much a gesture as it is quality assurance. But while individually wrapped items are pleasing aesthetically, they are a sustainability nightmare.

Japan’s top paper manufacturers have taken note and developed innovative ways of eradicating plastic and taking a more eco-friendly path in packing and shipping.

A subsidiary of Nippon Paper Industries has developed a waterproof cardboard box as an alternative for polystyrene containers. The manufacturing giant says the box can hold water without leaking for up to three weeks. Food processing firms are already using it to transport fish but it is the possibility of other industries, including fashion, that may benefit.

The president of subsidiary Nippon Tokai Industrial Paper Supply says they see opportunity in the broader push for sustainable products, and “plan to put a great deal of effort into tapping into these societal trends.”

Another innovation comes from Daio Paper Corporation, who aim replace plastics hooks and hangers in our homes with high-strength paper versions. The company says it strives to reduce waste materials and conserve natural resources by making use of a filler recycling technology that it put to practical use. As part of a Zero Waste Emissions initiative the company reuses waste generated through the production of pulp and paper, for applications in cement materials, construction materials and land reclamation.

A climate change laggard

When compared to other nations, Japan is lagging on climate change, according to global science analysts Climate Action Tracker (CAT). The CAT rates Japan’s climate targets, policies and finance as “Insufficient” a rating which indicates Japan’s climate policies and commitments need substantial improvements to be consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C temperature limit.