In response to such trends as the sharp increase in the world’s population and its continued urbanization along with the rapid economic growth of emerging and developing nations, the depletion of natural resources essential for living has become an issue. Seven & i Group is working toward achieving a circular economy that makes effective use of resources by working with customers and business partners to reduce waste, collect recyclable resources at stores, promote recycling, and reuse materials.
With regard to the reduction of plastic shopping bags that has been attracting increased attention lately, Seven & i Group’s “GREEN CHALLENGE 2050” environmental declaration sets the goal of replacing 50% of containers and packaging used in our original products by 2030, and 100% by 2050, with environmental-friendly materials. In addition, with regard to the reduction of plastic bags, we aim to reduce the use of plastic shopping bags to zero by 2030, and adopt sustainable, natural materials such as paper for shopping bags.
Seven & i Group is promoting an important initiative to recover and recycle empty containers and other materials from its products. Every Group company cooperates with customers and local governments to collect recycling resources such as bottles, cans, polystyrene, paper cartons, and PET bottles at stores in accordance with local waste disposal sorting rules. Recently, some stores of the Group have also been cooperating with local governments to collect small electrical appliances, which have been drawing attention as “urban mines.”
In addition, the Ito-Yokado Hikifune store has been developing new initiatives to promote a circular economy, such as providing a place for demonstration of recycling experiments jointly conducted by Kao and Lion since October 2020.
Ito-Yokado, York-Benimaru, and York have had reverse vending machines for collecting PET bottles for recycling installed at stores since 2012. Since PET bottles inserted into the machines undergo an automatic process of foreign-matter removal and volume-reduction (by either compression or crushing), large volumes of bottles for recycling can be sent to recycling plants on each occasion, which reduces the delivery frequency from stores. Moreover, by utilizing Seven & i Group logistics routes, more efficient transportation is possible and the volume of CO2 emissions resulting from the operations can be reduced.
The collected PET bottles are made into new PET bottles for the domestic market. This “closed-loop recycling” system of recycling PET bottles into new PET bottles is the first attempt by a major retail chain in Japan to be implemented on such a large scale.
Seven-Eleven Japan conducted trials of reverse vending machines at five stores in Koto-ku, Tokyo starting in December 2015. Later, the program was expanded in stages to stores in Tokyo and Saitama Prefectures starting in December 2017. In addition, since June 2019, Seven-Eleven Japan has been partnering with Higashiyamato City, the Higashiyamato City Cleaning Business Cooperative, and the Nippon Foundation to gradually install PET bottle reverse vending machines to promote bottle-to-bottle recycling at all 7-Eleven stores in Higashiyamato City. Moreover, in September 2019, the installation of PET bottle reverse vending machines began at stores in Okinawa Prefecture, and in January 2020, installation began in Yokohama City, making it the first among ordinance-designated cities. As of the end of February 2021, PET bottle reverse vending machines have been installed at some stores in 13 prefectures, and there are plans for expansion going forward.
As of the end of February 2023, 3,174 reverse vending machines have been installed in stores across the four companies, and approximately 12,400 tons of PET bottles have been collected in the fiscal year ended February 28, 2022. We are promoting the initiative to recycle material from PET bottles collected at stores and use it in packaging for the Group's Seven Premium private brand products. Moreover, we have printed a note explaining the process from collecting to recycling on the product packaging, and are working on promoting understanding and awareness of the circular recycling system.
PET Bottle Recycling System Using Reverse Vending Machines
Small-sized reverse vending machine system
for convenience stores
Number of PET bottle reverse vending machines installed
and amount recovered
From June 2019, Seven & i Group began selling “Seven Premium Hajime Ryokucha Ichi-nichi Ippon” in recycled bottles made by using 100% of the PET bottles collected by reverse vending machines at stores. It is the first initiative of its kind in the world that recycles PET bottles collected from specific distribution groups as raw materials and sells them as a product again in the same distribution group.*
Seven & i Group is making efforts to expand the use of recycled PET materials while promoting the collection of PET bottles. In February 2020, “Seven Premium Lifestyle Body Cooler,” an underwear that utilizes PET bottles collected by PET bottle reverse vending machines installed at the Group stores and uses recycled yarn made from the PET bottles, went on sale at Ito-Yokado, York-Benimaru, and Sogo & Seibu stores nationwide.
As of the end of February 2022, Ito-Yokado carries approximately 200 clothing items that use these recycled materials, accounting for about 13% of the sales mix for Ito-Yokado’s underwear category. We plan to continue developing products that use recycled PET bottle materials moving forward.
PET Bottle Recycling Scheme
Seven & i Group has promoted the reduced use of disposable plastic bags by asking customers whether they need a bag at the register, displaying posters and POP signs, and holding events to encourage customers to bring their own shopping bags when shopping at stores. In July 2020, we commenced usage fees for plastic shopping bags, and as of the end of February 2022, the rate of decline in use of plastic shopping bags for the entire Group was just under 80%.
Seven-Eleven Japan has recommended that 21,000 stores nationwide use plastic shopping bags containing 30% plant-derived biomass polyethylene to further reduce usage fees for petroleum-derived plastics. As plastic shopping bags started to cost money, the turn-down rate at Seven-Eleven Japan, which was about 30% before the charge was applied, has grown to be about 72% (as of the end of February 2022). This had led to about 8,000-ton reduction in the use of plastic (amount reduced from the July 2020 start of charging to February 2021) and to about 17,000-ton reduction in the fiscal year ended in February 28, 2022 compared to the previous fiscal year. Moreover, in the fiscal year ended February 28, 2022, the “amount equivalent to Head Office revenue” from the sales of plastic shopping bags amounted to approximately 860 million yen, which is being used as part of costs for the installation of PET bottle reverse vending machines.
Ito-Yokado is working to curtail the generation of waste and to promote reuse and recycling with a view to reducing waste disposal. For example, in product deliveries, Ito-Yokado utilizes reusable containers and hangers for delivery of apparel as a way of cutting down on the use of packaging and cardboard. At stores, Ito-Yokado promotes understanding of recycling, and store employees are encouraged to rigorously sort waste for recycling purposes.
Shipping work at a distribution center
Reusable containers for store deliveries
When 7-Eleven stores are to be rebuilt or closed, the disposed product shelving, fixtures, and chiller cases are reused at other stores after undergoing maintenance. Furthermore, steel frames and sashes that are resulted in destructions of stores are reused in constructions of new stores to reduce construction waste.