Here’s this week’s Media Mix about the new rules for plastic shopping bags. As I say in the column, the rules aren’t going to make a big practical difference since shopping bags only account for about 2 percent of all plastic waste, which is now increasing due to the pandemic. The government has acknowledged this, saying that the main purpose of the rule is to heighten awareness, and in that regard, the highly visible, highly recognizable environment minister, Shinjiro Koizumi, is perfectly suited for the job of publicizing the rules. The Shincho article I cite in the column is actually mainly about Koizumi’s PR moves regarding the launch of the new bag rules, and it was typically unflattering about his efforts.
The title, for one thing, said something to the effect that minister’s “eco bag is empty.” The article begins by saying that the famously photogenic Koizumi hasn’t been much in the news lately since he became a father late last year, and seemed to need something to remind people that he was still around, so the shopping bag rule promotion was an easy and seemingly fool-proof way to get his face in front of cameras again, especially since, as Shincho put it, he has yet to register any kind of “achievement” as environment minister. It should be noted that he had little to do with the legislation for the bag restrictions.
From what I could gather in the main media, his PR activities came down to a public press event where he appeared with the helium-voiced TV talent and ichthyologist Sakana-kun where they rewrote a children’s song with lyrics having to do with plastic bags. He also patronized a convenience store in Nagatacho with the media in tow to show off his own eco bag, a blue plastic number recycled from tarp that had been used for cleanup purposes following the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake. To give credit where credit is due, Koizumi has been using this bag since the end of last year when he carried out a similar PR stunt to drive home the idea of refusing plastic shopping bags. However, this time Shincho made careful note of what he purchased at the CS: among his purchases were several beverages in PET bottles, a plastic waste scourge that has yet to receive its own legal sanction. Doesn’t Koizumi have his own reusable water bottle or coffee cup? Where’s the ministry spin doctors when you need them?