A Japanese man has invented an edible alternative to plastic bags in a bid to protect the sacred deer freely roaming Nara Park in Nara, Japan.
Death from garbage: Hidetoshi Matsukawa, a souvenir wholesale agent at Nara-ism, was alarmed to learn last year that deer in the popular tourist destination died due to plastic bag ingestion, CNN reports.
- Nara’s deer have become the symbols of the city and officially designated as a national natural treasure.
- There are currently around 1,000 sacred deer roaming around the city.
- While grass comprises an important part of the deer’s diet and tourists feed them deer crackers (shika senbei) made of wheat flour and rice bran.
- Some deer also end up consuming plastic bags thrown by visitors around the park.
- A local welfare group reported in July 2019 that nine deer were found dead with plastic bags inside their stomachs.
Protecting Nara’s precious deer: While there was an initiative to advise tourists against throwing away plastic bags in the area, Matsukawa decided to come up with an alternative solution.
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- Matsukawa sought help from a local paper manufacturer and a design firm to develop a safer container than plastic.
- The end product was called deer paper (shikagami), an edible material made from rice bran and milk cartons.
- Since rice bran is mostly discarded as waste after rice polishing, the creation of shikagami also helps in reducing waste.
- Japan Food Research Laboratories has tested the bags and deemed them safe for consumption, BBC reports.
- Nara’s main attraction Todaiji temple and some local banks support Matsukawa’s initiative and have so far purchased 4,000-5,000 of the bags for 100 yen (96 cents) each.
- Pricing for the bags is expected to drop after more businesses decide to support his cause of preventing more deer deaths from plastic.
Feature Image via 奈良しかできない鹿と環境を守るプロジェクト