June 8, 2006 in Miscellaneous

Charging Customers for Plastic Bags

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Charging customers for plastic bags might help cut down the number that end up in landfills, but the whole idea of seperating out the charge, leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Ikea to charge for plastic bags
BBC, Last Updated: Sunday, 4 June 2006, 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK
Ikea is to become the UK’s first major retailer to regularly charge customers for plastic bags, to try and tackle waste and environmental damage. The Swedish firm will charge shoppers 5p for every bag with immediate effect, rising to 10p in September.
It believes the move – accompanied by a switch to biodegradable bags and lower prices for reusable bags – will cut total bag use by 20 million next year.
The Environment Agency praised the move as a “great example” to other firms.
Environmental price
Retailers are under growing pressure to curb plastic bag giveaways to reduce litter and encourage energy efficiency.
Most of the estimated 17 billion bags given away each year are only used once and then thrown away.
The Irish Republic has levied a 15 cents (10p) charge on plastic bags since 2002, a policy claimed to have reduced usage by 90%.
Discount firms such as Aldi and Lidl already charge for bags in the UK while B&Q have been trialling a scheme.
Ikea is the first major firm to proceed with a fully-fledged scheme, raising the possibility that other High Street firms may follow suit.
However, industry bodies say plastic bags account for just 5% of overall litter and that a compulsory charge would be counter-productive.
“The UK is addicted to plastic bags and we are paying a high price for this in environmental terms,” said Charlie Browne, Ikea’s environmental manager.
“We want to discourage customers from one-off use of carrier bags and help customers make an environmentally friendly choice.”
Lifestyle changes
Ikea – which gave away 32 million bags in 2005 – said it had conducted a successful two-year charging trial in Edinburgh, which had led to a 90% drop in consumption.
“This may prove controversial with some customers but we really hope people will stick with us and realise that we are doing this to try and help the environment,” Mr Browne added.
Ikea emphasised that it would not make any money from the move since all the proceeds would be donated to the environmental organisation Community Forests.
The Environment Agency said small lifestyle changes such as use of biodegradable bags could make a huge difference to the environment.
“If everyone in the UK stopped using plastic bags and switched to a reusable bag, we would save enough plastic bags to tie around the earth 103 times,” said its chairman Sir John Harman.

One Comment

  1. June 8, 2006 at 6:24 pm


    I remember when I was in the UK, a supermarket chain that charged for their plastic bags, I think. I think it is a good idea to separate the charge, because if it’s lumped in absorbed somewhere else, consumers don’t necessarily realise that they are paying for the bags and there is not as much of an incentive to use fewer bags. If you know that you are paying directly 5p per bag, there’s a real motivator there to use fewer bags or to bring your own bags when you go shopping (something I keep meaning to do, but often forget). I mean you’re paying either way, and a separate charge helps remind you of what it is you’re paying for and why.

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