British retail giant Marks & Spencer will begin charging 5p (10 cents) for a plastic bag in a move to reduce plastic waste.
The move comes after a successful campaign in the company’s Northern Ireland stores, where the amount of bags used by customers was reduced 66%. The campaign will begin with a trial run in 33 southwest England stores in February before moving to all the company’s English stores if successful.
Some studies have showed such a move may drive shoppers to other retailers, but Marks & Spencer is betting it will pay off. In an effort to retain customers, stores will give out free Marks & Spencer “Bag for Life” bags with every food purchase for 3 weeks leading up to the switch. The plastic bags themselves will all be made from recycled post-consumer waste.
Stuart Rose, CEO of Marks & Spencer, said that the store had to change its customers’ behavior if it was to meet its own environmental targets by 2012. Those targets include reducing carrier bag use by 33%, becoming carbon neutral, and sending no waste to the landfill. All profits from the sale of the bags will be donated to environmental projects in southwest England. The move follows criticism of M&S for having the least recyclable food packaging of any UK retailer.
Roughly 13 billion plastic bags are given to shoppers in the UK every year, or about 220 bags for every person in Britain. Around one-half of one percent of plastic bags are recycled every year, and they take a century to decompose. M&S is not the only place where a charge is placed on bags. The practice is common in continental Europe, and the London councils are considering placing a citywide tax, or even a ban, on the bags.
If you find this information useful and would like to get daily updates, feel free to subscribe to our RSS feed.