Marks and Spencer has introduced a 5p charge for plastic grocery bags in England, trialing within 33 stores in the south-west. If successful, it will be rolled out across hundreds of M&S stores in England in a move to cut plastic waste.
The move follows a successful trial by the company in Northern Ireland which led to a 66% reduction in the number of plastic bags used by customers.
In an attempt to prevent customers deserting the retailer, stores in Dorset, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Devon and Cornwall gave away a free M&S Bag for Life with each food transaction three weeks before the charge was implemented.
Announcing the plan to extend carrier bag charging, M&S chief executive, Stuart Rose said that in order for the company to meet its targets to reduce carrier bag usage by a third, send no waste to landfill, and become carbon neutral by 2012, it had to encourage customers to change their behaviour.
Standard plastic bags can take 100 years to decompose in landfill. In the UK, more than 13bn bags are issued every year to shoppers. This means that each person receives roughly 220 bags a year. Only one in 200 bags is estimated to be recycled. London councils are currently consulting the public over its proposals to introduce a London-wide ban, or levy on plastic bags.
M&S was recently criticised for having less food packaging that could be recycled than any of its main rivals.