Japanese firms develop ocean degradable bags

Japanese companies have developed shopping bags that degrade in seawater to help reduce plastic waste in the oceans.

Mitsubishi Chemical and a wrapping material maker created the product, drawing on the same mechanism by which microorganisms dissolve garbage in soil.

Company officials say the material is made from plant-based ingredients, such as sugar cane, and is easily dissolved in seawater, which usually contains fewer microorganisms than soil. They say it takes about a year for the bag to be completely broken down in seawater.

The officials say manufacturing the bag requires an advanced technique, which led them to estimate that the price will be more than six times that of conventional plastic bags.

A Mitsubishi Chemical official says the firm wants to help resolve the issue of marine plastic waste by promoting the use of the bag.

A similar biodegradable bag has been developed by Japan's largest shopping bag maker, Fukusuke Kogyo, in conjunction with Gunma University. They are preparing to sell the product.

Earlier this month, the Japanese government began requiring all retailers to charge customers for plastic shopping bags as part of its efforts to discourage their use.