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Edible Bags for Japan’s Nara Deer
Plastic pollution has been a growing issue for decades. An estimated 381 million tons of waste plastic is produced every year with much of it ending up in landfill, in the ocean and polluting many of the world’s natural habitats.
Plastic is one of the most pressing environmental issues as mass production of disposable plastic overwhelms our ability to deal with it. Reports of the damage that plastic inflicts on the environment are growing every day with stories of irreversible damage to ecosystems, animals found dead having ingested waste plastic materials and oceans and beaches littered with tonnes and tonnes of plastic litter.
While plastic is a big problem, some companies are doing their best to combat the ever growing problem and find a solution. Drinks companies are trialling alternatives to plastic straws and bottles, supermarkets are working with suppliers to reduce plastic packaging and companies such as the Ocean Clean Up are developing new technologies in an attempt to clean up some of the plastic that already pollutes the ocean.
More recently, several companies in Japan have collaborated to produce a safe alternative to plastic packaging.
Deer in Nara, Japan
The City of Nara, in Japan, is famed for the deer that roam the streets. Nara’s deer are regarded as heavenly animals that protect the city and the country. In 2015, there were more than 1,200 deer roaming free in the town and parks. Local vendors sell deer crackers (sika senbei) to visitors so they can feed and interact with the deer.
Last year, several of Nara’s deer were found dead after swallowing plastic bags and food wrappers. It was reported that one of the dead animals had swallowed more than 4Kg of rubbish, prompting calls for tourists to be more careful with their rubbish.
The offending bags and wrappers are thought to have been discarded by visitors who fed the animals other treats, ignoring multilingual signs warning them to give them only approved crackers that are sold in local shops – which do not come in plastic packaging.
Deer Friendly Packaging
As a result of the damage caused by waste plastic, local companies got together to develop a safe alternative to the plastic packaging discarded by tourists that often ends up in the animals’ stomachs.
The new bags are made with recycled pulp from milk cartons and rice bran, one of the main ingredients of the shika senbei savoury crackers fed to the deer by tourists. These new, safe bags have been designed to pass safely through the deers’ complex digestive systems.
According to media reports, so far around 3,500 of the bags have been sold to local firms and organisations, including the city’s tourism bureau.
Fighting the War on Plastic
We’re happy to hear that more companies are doing their bit to protect wildlife from harmful plastics. The war on plastic is not going away any time soon, the more organisations that get involved with reducing the amount of plastic that is produced, the closer we get to a plastic free future.
We hope that more companies will get on board to fight the war on plastic so we can all work our way to a more sustainable future.
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