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.

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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

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