Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Would you like a bag with that?

This blog post is perhaps slightly an environmentally themed one, while I do not pretend to be some carbon neutral, knits my own yoghurt, flaky hippy, I can see when something is obscenely overdone, and in Japan, something has struck me as being just that. The Japanese, a very clean society who pride themselves on hygiene, also seem to take pride in something that seems very benign, and that is packaging. Everything is individually wrapped, so while this may be the most hygienic solution, particularly in a nation as crammed as Japan, it also produces a vast amount of waste. I went to the bakery to buy lunch earlier this week, and selected a couple of 'An-kare pan' (a bread roll filled with mince and egg, then lightly crummed and fried, very nic), and a bag of 'An-pan donatsu', (little bread balls filled with a sweet bean paste), and taking them to the counter, the store assistant proceeded to bag them, as they would anywhere. However, the way in which she did it used a large amount of packaging. The 'an-pan donatsu were in a sealed plastic bag, so nothing I could do about that, but for each of the 'an kare pan', she wrapped in heavily waxed, almost plastic paper, and then put them into their own little plastic bag, which she then sellotaped shut, then put into another plastic bag into which the donatsu were already placed. So when I got home, I nearly needed a machete to get to my lunch, for there was the plastic carry bag (as we have in NZ), plus the plastic bag for the donatsu (some places would do this in NZ), followed by a plastic bag for each of the an kare pan, and then some plastic like paper that the bread rolls were wrapped in. So for 490 yen (almost NZ$7.50) I had two meat/egg rolls, a little bag of doughnut like things, plus 1,2,3,4 plastic bags, and 2 sheets of nigh on indestructable paper. They were too small to be of any real practical re-use, and the paper was greasy and probably of a similar material used to build space-shuttles, so not of any use to me either.

The Bakery Experience

We can buy icecream drinks in plastic tubes in NZ, and no doubt these contribute massively to our waste, but in Japan these too are put in plastic bags. We also do this in NZ, so what are you trying to say, you may ask? In NZ, if you buy these icecream drinks, you either do so individually, in which case they come bagless, or you buy them in packs of 20s, so the overall packaging is less than the Japanese equivalent. These too were put in their own little plastic bag, which was then taped shut. Completely bonkers.

I purchased some deodorant and face wipes from a pharmacy last week, and the wipes, above, came in two bags, one outer and one inner. The inner bag is essential, of that I have no doubt, for it contains the wipes, but the size of the outer bag is completely bonkers also. So much waste came from this.

And even their aerosol deodorants are cling wrapped. I bought this and this only at the pharmacy, and the assistant put a bit of store tape on the can to show I'd bought it, then put it in a small plastic bag, then taped it shut.

So from buying 3 bakery items, 2 icecream drinks, and two deodorant products, my net plastic gain is, 2 sheets of spaceshuttle grade paper, 11 plastic bags of a size too small to be of any use, 1 metallic bag for the icecream drinks, 2 plastic icecream drink tubes, 1 mass of plastic clingfilm from the deodorant can, and then two sealed bags from the face wipes. Plus 6   2cm long pieces of sellotape.

The amount of waste produced by this country that is so focussed on hygeine and packaging is vast, far more than it could be if they used more ¬read if they used at all¬ paper bags, and put multiple items ¬looking at you bakery¬ in the same bag. So while I'm in Japan producing tonnes and tonnes of waste, please try to recycle yours, gotta offset my wastage somehow.

On that note, this blog has been a little scathing, the next one shall be a little more compassionate towards them, I'm sure of it.

In other news, I'm going to be starting school today, albeit for a short day, starting at 2, I'm going to be meeting all my teachers, my headmaster, etc. Should be interesting, Tsurumine High School's festival is coming up, so all the students will be hard at work constructing all manner of bits and pieces for their float/piece/show/whatever it is that they are making. This morning, being my first school morning in Japan this year, I was woken up by ONE of my EIGHT alarms that I'd set the night before (ipod, your alarm + alarm functions suck) at 6.25, giving me 1 hour 5 minutes to get out the door. Rushing downstairs to have breakfast, Midori had cooked up this for me.
Which was hastily eaten, then I rushed upstairs to get changed and brush my teeth, pack, unpack, pack again my school bag etc, getting mildly jittery for the first day at a new school, then upon coming downstairs to get my camera, Midori said (in Japanese) 'Oh Troy, did I not tell you, you don't have to go to school until 2 oclock today?' On the outside I had a 'thankyou for informing me of this the night before, and thus preventing me from worrying and rushing too much in the morning' face, but on the inside, I was not a happy chappy.... The Japanese, usually being so obssessed with getting somewhere at the correct time, (Midori was very worried when we were a minute late to a meeting. A meeting which didn't start for another 15 minutes anyway due to unknown reasons) had failed me. All that worrying for nothing. However it does mean that I can be here, in the dining room of my house, eating a shortbread biscuit (from London, of all places), and add to this blog. So in a way, I'm grateful, means I have a nice short day at school today. Tomorrow will be different, though, I'll blog about D-Day later on I suspect. Slightly nervous, as should everyone be, but it also means I'll be making some friends! A week as an only child without anyone my own age, means I can do what I like, but one misses human contact with their own age demographic I think.

That's all for now, thanks for reading! Hope all is well with you wherever you happen to be in the world, Sayounara for now from Toroi, a New Zealander living Under the Kanagawan Sun!

1 comment:

  1. I totally bought those deodorant wipes (I must say, they are awesome), but I know what you mean about the packaging - everything is individually wrapped and then further packaged in a larger bag, only to be put in a plastic bag when you buy it. Nuts.