Japanese raw material manufacturers are searching for alternatives to plastics which have raised concern globally as they are turning up in clusters in oceans. The burgeoning market for plastic alternatives has attracted Japanese corporations from five industries to meet the demands from retail and restaurants who are now using paper and other base products. Most restaurants here in Tokyo now use paper straws, while they are reducing the use of plastics in a wide variety of areas.
Evidence points to a massive shift in the industry as current manufacturers of plastics are now shifting to biodegradable plastics for daily use. The nation’s leading paper manufacturer, Oji Holdings Corp., will start using a wide range of paper packaging materials in January. In October, Toyobo Co. starting producing biodegradable resins on commission from the US chemical manufacturer, DuPont. When biodegradable products costing several times more than regular plastics, there will be some cost changes in the industry simply because of the volume of materials that must be used.
The demand is expected to be strong for some time and this explains the number of new firms that are not producing plastic alternatives to step up and start new businesses. Itochu Corp., Toppan Printing Co., and IBM are all throwing their weight behind new companies in this field, with start-ups of these names using limestone, a derivative called LIMEX.
McDonalds, Starbucks and other global food outlets have stopped the use of plastic straws and will transfer to alternative materials in an effort to reduce plastic pollution.