BRIEYA MOORBERG WRITES —The deer in Japan’s famed tourist destination, Nara Park, located in Nara Prefecture, have been dying. This year alone, 1,000 deer died after consuming  plastic bags left behind by tourists. Now, to the rescue:  A local Japanese entrepreneur, Hidetoshi Matsukawa, a souvenir wholesale agent who has invented edible plastic bags that actually protect the sacred deer from ingesting plastic.

Here’s how it happened: Matsukawa teamed up with local paper manufacturers and a design firm to create plastic bags made from rice paper and pulp from milk cartons that are edible. These bags can be easily dissolved in water, thus offering a safer solution if ingested by deer and other wildlife.

Ingestion of plastic bags is one of the most common animal deaths in the world, with conservationists estimating that at least 100,000 mammals and birds die from them each year, while the number of fish killed, as yet unknown, is sure to be in the millions.

Currently the edible bags have made it into local banks and Todaiji temple, Nara’s most popular tourist attraction. There, it is common for tourists to feed the deer sugar-free crackers or other treats that come in plastic but are not disposed of properly, thus becoming a threat to the lives of these sacred animals. Last year a deer was found dead with 8 pounds of plastic bags in its stomach.

With surrounding stores adopting these edible bags, the number of deer deaths is sure to decrease in Japan. It can only be hoped that in the future we will see more such sustainable innovations in national parks and cities worldwide to help protect the wellbeing of wildlife everywhere.

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