Inbound Ambassador

Reusable Containers Improve Branding

I’ve never been to a quality sake or beer festival that doesn’t use traditional ceramic sake cups or beer “joki” to provide the best experience of their product.
Enjoying a quality drink in a quality reusable cup can significantly improve the quality (taste) of the product as well as the appeal of a place, service or event. Any company or destination looking to elevate overall appeal should at least pilot a reusable container scheme in place of current single-use versions. The trial cost-benefit ratio alongside feedback from staff and customers can more effectively inform sustainable business decisions. Reusable containers are used to promote high-quality products and experiences in Japan. If this practice is applied across wider consumer experiences, it could elevate destination branding and appeal.

The UK has recently made international news for reinstating its Deposit Return Schemes (DRS) to improve the efficiency of reusable and recyclable container infrastructure. According to this article in the Guardian, 38 countries worldwide follow DRS systems which have increased recycling rates to 90% (currently only 43% in the UK). International consumer research suggests that a majority of “consumers will increasingly turn to “reusable and repurposable packaging” in the near future.

Zero-waste business models are catching on across Europe with Germany leading policy changes. The website ZeroWasteEurope argues that thinking in a more ‘circular way’ cuts inefficiencies and costs as well as improves the overall business design. In the US, there is a growing interest in reusable containers among consumers which has sparked new circular-economy regulations.

(USA) RPA Guidelines & Best Practices for safe use + reuse of containers in food supply chains

At this TEDxTalk, Zero-Waste Guru Akira Sakano explains the costs and wastes of ‘convenience’ to a group of students at her APU talk. Packaging seems convenient and cheap but actually translates into a higher price tag for the consumer who only really needs what is inside all of the external (usually plastic) packaging.

Bento&Co is a high-quality reusable bento shop in Kyoto offering a range of reusable containers both at their store and online. Many of their beautiful reusable products are also made-in-Japan promoting a traditional esthetic.

I’d love to see light and sturdy wooden bento boxes like Bento&Co feature, or at least their colorful origami-inspired Japanese paper boxes instead of the current single-use plastic Eki-ben containers found in train stations, convenience stores and grocery stores across Japan.

Ideally, by 2020 when Japan bursts with international visitors for the summer games, every busy public facility (especially central hubs like train stations) needs to update its reusable infrastructure.

Every platform and ticket office could have a “nama-gomi” food-waste bin (for compost), a ‘reusable container’ bin and a ‘reusable cutlery’ bin next to the usual ‘燃える moeru-burnable’ garbage and ‘recyclables’ on platforms. Starting by adding a reusable bento system for passengers riding on the bullet trains, or even just in the Green cars, may be an easier first step in the right direction to test the concept.

In interviews with international visitors, one of the most common responses of happy travelers is how clean and efficient train travel is across the country. If reusables become standard practice, I would expect to hear even higher praise as customers eating from traditional (reusable) containers would describe their Japan experiences as even more efficient and of the highest quality.

As the image of disposable chopsticks and plastic containers is becoming widely regarded as ‘wasteful’, ‘cheap’ and ‘dirty’, Japan could position itself as a stand-out world leader in reusable containers.

I would start with sales of items which are quickly consumed, such as bento, rice-balls, snacks, ice-creams, drinks and sweets. These items should only be sold in reusable containers with minimal waste. There should never be a plastic bag given for a small item which will be consumed within the hour. I have seen these small purchases given in a bag which is then discarded within a few steps in the same shop. If a bag is required, let the customer purchase one for a few yen, or better yet use their own. But really wouldn’t a reusable plate or tray suffice?

Of course, new regulation requires organizational revision and training. But once adopted, this change could significantly reduce the amount of waste and cost of operations, while positively improving the overall Japan destination brand.

Overall, new reusable standards could improve impressions of higher-quality products or services which would add intangible value to the wider Japan travel experience.

ブランでイングに効果的 再利用容器あれこれ










使い捨てお箸とプラスチック容器がだんだんと「無駄 安ぽい 汚い」イメージが強まっている中、日本ではこれをチャンスと捉え世界をリードすることができます。




Leave a Reply