TOKYO -- Convenience store operator Seven-Eleven Japan will switch to plant-derived bioplastic wrappers for all rice ball offerings by the end of July as consumers grow more aware of the environmental impact of using petrochemical materials.
The new material will be made partly from sugarcane fibers. The initiative will reduce the company's carbon dioxide emissions by about 403 tons a year and its plastic use by roughly 260 tons.
The Seven & i Holdings unit sells roughly 2.27 billion rice balls, or onigiri, a year at its 21,000 stores nationwide. Along with soft drinks, they are among the most popular offerings by sales volume.
With countries around the world moving to curb the use of plastics, the top industry player's effort on one of its bestselling items could fuel consumer products' shift away from fossil-fuel-based materials.
Seven-Eleven Japan has already been testing utensils made partly with plant materials at certain Osaka stores since this month. A broader trend is starting to take hold in the industry. Nissin Foods Holdings has decided to use a cup noodle container made in part with a plant-derived plastic. FamilyMart has adopted bioplastic containers for salad offerings.
Seven & i has more than 22,000 stores nationwide, including supermarkets and department stores. The company aims for bioplastics or biodegradables to account for 50% of packaging for house brand products by 2030, with a full changeover completed in 2050.