Marks & Spencer (M&S) will charge customers 5p for every food carrier bag given out by its stores, it has announced.
The charge aims to reduce demand, with all profits from it going to charity.
M&S said the 5p fee would apply to its food carriers only, of which some 394 million were handed out last year.
Non-food bags free
Carrier bags for non-food M&S goods will not incur a charge. Some 170 million of these general merchandise bags were given to M&S customers in 2007.
News of the 5p charge met with a mixed reaction from shoppers, with some backing the move while others criticised M&S for imposing a ‘rip-off’ fee.
The Green Party welcomed the M&S scheme but called on the government to impose a mandatory tax on every plastic bag used.
Bags for Life
M&S will give all food customers free long-lasting Bags for Life from early April for one month before the 5p charge starts on 6 May.
Mini food bags and horticultural bags will still be available free of charge on request.
Bags for Life will revert to their usual 10p cost from 6 May and will be replaced free of charge when worn out.
An estimated 13 billion free plastic bags are given out by all retailers to UK shoppers every year and take around 1,000 years to decay.
Estimated number of free plastic bags given to UK shoppers each year
Yesterday’s M&S announcement follows a trial period of charging for food carrier bags in more than 50 of its stores, which saw customer demand drop by over 70%.
Profits from the 5p charge will go to environmental charity Groundwork for investment in parks and green spaces.
M&S chief executive Sir Stuart Rose said the chain would consider phasing out carrier bags completely if customers wanted it.
‘We want to make it easy for our customers to do their bit to help the environment and our trials have shown us that they want to take action,’ he said.
‘Just imagine if M&S customers right across the UK cut the number of food bags they use by 70% – that’s over 280 million bags they’d be saving every year.’
M&S food carriers are currently made from 20% recycled plastic. That will be increased to 100% from 6 May.
The chain’s non-food carriers are already made from 100% recycled waste material.
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