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Blog 09.05.2022

Japan is aiming towards greener packaging: possibilities for Finnish companies

Inka-Liisa Häkälä

Senior Advisor, Business Finland Japan
inka-liisa.hakala (at)
Tel. +81 90 2228 9163

Japan has an image of cleanliness and Western-like environmentally friendly policies.  Many may thus be surprised, that Japan produces the second most plastic waste per capita in the world right after United States. 

The sheer size of the market and pressure for limiting plastic waste create a huge opportunity for Finnish packaging and recycling innovations.

Just plastic raw material shipments are around 10,000,000–11,000,000 tons per year domestically. Traditionally a large amount of the plastic waste has been exported to other Asian countries, but in recent years many countries have banned or restricted plastic waste imports making this unfeasible. The sheer size of the market and pressure for limiting plastic waste create a huge opportunity for Finnish packaging and recycling innovations.

Japan’s new greener policy

Japan has awoken to the problems with plastic products, and in 2019 the country published a new strategy for restricting plastic use called Resource Circulation Strategy for Plastics. The strategy includes several concrete mail stones for reducing plastics: reducing single-use plastic by 25% by 2030, reusable or recyclable design for all containers and packaging/products by 2025, 60% rate of recycling for containers and packaging by 2030, and 2 million tons introduction of biomass plastics by 2030. 2020 summer was a visible example of the strategy for Japanese consumers; retailers were made to request payment for plastic shopping bags, which had previously been given out in case of even the smallest of purchases.

Now Japan’s pace is growing even more, as in April 2022 a new Act on Promotion of Resource Circulation for Plastics came into force. The act pressures large companies in main industries producing single-use plastics like retailers, hotels and restaurant chains to change their ways. The act includes 12 product categories which consumption has to be decreased, like single-use utensils, straws, hair combs and toothbrushes. This can be done in several ways, like restricting the availability, charging for the products or decreasing the plastic material used or switching into alternative materials. And if Japan is to achieve the targets of the 2019 strategy, this act will surely not be the last one.

Possibilities for Finnish innovation

The huge market of plastic products and actions on decreasing the use of single-use plastics create a unique opportunity for Finnish solution. Similarly to Finland, around 70% of Japan’s land area is covered by forests, and companies and the government are constantly looking for new ways of utilizing these forests. Finnish innovative materials that utilize wood mass could hit two birds in one stone: replace fossil-based plastics with bio based alternatives and offer Japan an opportunity to utilize the domestic raw material. Domestic products are popular in Japan just the same as they are in Finland.

Finnish sisu and correctly aimed resources should be sure to find opportunities!

There is another interesting opportunity regarding plastics recycling. In Japan most of recycled plastics goes into thermal recycling, an acknowledged way of recycling in Japan. There is therefore space for new innovative solutions for mechanical and chemical recycling that could enable a larger amount of plastics to be recycled as a material. The market is surely more challenging than plastic products as waste collection and recycling is mostly done by local municipalities, but Finnish sisu and correctly aimed resources should be sure to find opportunities!

To Japanese markets with Business Finland

I have made a study on Japanese packaging and plastic markets in early 2022. This market study is available for interested Finnish companies. Do contact me and I will send you the file and we can discuss your needs in Japanese markets more. 

. I will also be arranging a buyer tour for a few selected Japanese companies to Finland in late August 2022. These buyers are both end-users of packaging and plastic products (consumer brands) and importers of plastics and other materials. This is a unique chance to meet Japanese buyers in Finland.

Lastly during this year, the largest packaging industry exhibition in Japan, Tokyo Pack, will be arranged on October 12 to 14 in Tokyo. The exhibition offers an excellent opportunity for getting a birds-eye view on the whole Japanese packaging industry at one time, and we are ready to arrange separate meetings with Japanese companies for you during the exhibition visit.

Please contact me if you would be interested in the buyer tour or Tokyo Pack 2022 or Japanese markets in general, and I will help you get started in the land of the rising sun.

Welcome to join the Bio and Circular Finland Program