Man Invents Edible Plastic Bags to Save Japan’s Nara Deer From Dying

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.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

少しずつ盛り上がって来ました。#鹿紙 #鹿紙食べる

A post shared by 鹿紙 (@kiyoshi0202) on

  • 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

Support our Journalism with a Contribution

Many people might not know this, but despite our large and loyal following which we are immensely grateful for, NextShark is still a small bootstrapped startup that runs on no outside funding or loans.

Everything you see today is built on the backs of warriors who have sacrificed opportunities to help give Asians all over the world a bigger voice.

However, we still face many trials and tribulations in our industry, from figuring out the most sustainable business model for independent media companies to facing the current COVID-19 pandemic decimating advertising revenues across the board.

We hope you consider making a contribution so we can continue to provide you with quality content that informs, educates and inspires the Asian community. Even a $1 contribution goes a long way. Thank you for everyone’s support. We love you all and can’t appreciate you guys enough.

NextShark is a leading source covering Asian American News and Asian News including business, culture, entertainment, politics, tech and lifestyle.

For advertising and inquiries: info@nextshark.com