The great M&S plastic bag charge begins.

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.  

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6 Responses to The great M&S plastic bag charge begins.

  1. Dave On Fire says:

    Well I’m vaguely supportive of this kind of thing, for all that it does smell of a flat tax. But it does sound like a bit of a cop out: “To keep up, environmentally, with the pack, it looks like we’re going to have to change the way we package everything.” “yeah, we could do that. or, and I’m just trying to think outside the blue sky box, or we could just start charging people five pee for a carrier bag…”

  2. matt says:

    Yes M&S have made no progress on packaging. They are super bad for presenting a sliced up friut selection in a plastic box for example. Are people really that lazy that they can’t slice up a melon for themselves!

  3. earthpal says:

    I support this but being M&S, most shoppers would be in a position to bear the cost of the bags and it might turn out to be largely ineffective. Probably not but I’d like to see money raised from plastic bag sales being used for environmental purposes and not just to add to the profits.

  4. matt says:

    All profits from the sales of these 5p bags will be donated to environmental projects in the south-west, according to M&S.

    Not sure I’m comfortable with pollution taxes funding environmental projects but, of course we would lose many funding streams at national and international levels if too many people agreed with me!

    It’s like smokers helping to fund the NHS. The charge/tax that is supposedly set up to curtail demand or direct behaviour becomes a self supporting funding stream workng against the original publicized intention.

    It’s like the Landfill Communities Fund (LCF) supporting biodiversity projects and children’s parks. This is funded from the landfill tax so you could say that recycling isn’t I good idea …. 🙂


  5. inel says:

    Charging for something makes people reassess its value to them. This 5p per bag helps people wake up.

    I often shop in M&S because I can walk there on the way to/from school. Our local store raises awareness of recycling and other environmental practices, in a way that Tesco and Waitrose find hard to match, so I thank M&S for its efforts.

    As a regular backpack user, M&S staff have congratulated me and told me about the training they receive on climate change — I am impressed with what I have heard.

    M&S also sell loose vegetables, so packaging is being addressed in other ways, slowly. The thing is, sometimes packaging is helpful if you want to get your eggs home in one piece 😉

    I recycle all M&S packaging.

    I do hope they ban plastic bags in London. Ireland and San Francisco have lead the way in the bag wars …

  6. Pingback: The Great Plastic Bag Challenge « Ecocommunity

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