Although everyone's thoughts have been on the ongoing pandemic and forthcoming vaccine of late, Japan has silently made progress on another front. While it's true Japan is a notoriously clean country, it has its fair share of shortcomings. For example, we've covered the excessive amount of plastic waste that is regularly generated by the island nation home to about 120 million people. It’s certainly an issue, to say the least.

Yet, Japanese residents are keenly aware of this. Many are working to reduce waste, and the government enacted a nationwide policy of charging for plastic bags in July. The recent policy looks to reduce plastic bag consumption among shoppers and inspire them to rely on reusable bags instead. So far, it seems like positive changes may indeed be afoot

Unintended consequences

However, like many things in life, there have been some unintended consequences of this eco-friendly policy change. As you can likely imagine, the number of shoplifters have increased recently. Throughout stressful times during the pandemic, many use reusable bags to conceal what they haven't purchased or otherwise attempt to take advantage of the situation.

Retailers are naturally trying to stop such behaviour. As such, when checking out a customer with a reusable bag, cashiers are tasked with applying a type of branded tape over the barcode of purchased items signifying they have been paid for. All well and good, but as manga artist Rukapon (@rukapon) pointed out, the combination of practices can sometimes lead to some awkward results. See for yourself exactly what she means:

Reproduced with permission from Rukapon (@rukapon)

Indeed, for kind and conscientious Japanese shoppers, inconveniencing others waiting in line and cashiers in this way can be unforgettably embarrassing. Personally, I can’t help but wonder if some shoppers simply choose to buy a plastic bag to avoid such a taping frenzy—kind of defeats the purpose.

Rukapon's readers agreed. They commented:

  • “Exactly! This is why I don’t use a reusable bag.”
  • “At times like this I’m screaming in my head ‘I’m going straight out of the store so just give it to me.’”
  • "Isn't there a better way. Maybe cashiers could tape closed the opening of a customer's reusable bag?"

If you liked this manga—or can relate to this predicament—check out Rukapon's Twitter page for more content. Enjoy!

By - Luke Mahoney.