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Environment

Uniqlo to phase in paper bags worldwide, cutting plastic

Clothing chain also prepares renewable packaging for Heattech and other lines

Customers walk out of a Uniqlo store in Tokyo's Ginza district with plastic bags.

TOKYO -- Casual clothing store chain Uniqlo and other brands under Fast Retailing will begin switching to paper bags for purchases worldwide in September, joining a procession of Japanese businesses abandoning plastic.

The changeover, announced Wednesday, will start in Japan and 11 other markets. Plastic bags will be replaced by ones made of recycled paper or new paper from sources certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Stores in Japan, Europe and North America will charge a fee for paper bags and sell reusable bags as an alternative.

These steps contribute to Fast Retailing's goal of cutting plastic use by 85% at its stores by 2020, a reduction of about 7,800 tons.

Founder and Chairman Tadashi Yanai -- Japan's richest person, according to Forbes -- has called sustainability "the greatest challenge for all companies."

Uniqlo will switch to paper bags at all of its locations. (Photo courtesy of Fast Retailing)

Clear plastic packaging for underwear and other products also will be replaced with wrapping made of renewable materials.

The company is studying paper as an alternative for packaging its warming Heattech and breathable Airism wear.

Other efforts by corporate Japan to cut plastic waste include Seven-Eleven convenience stores wrapping rice balls in plant-derived bioplastic and beverage group Suntory switching to renewable bottles.

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