M&S to scrap free plastic bags

Marks & Spencer will join the growing ranks of high street retailers charging customers for carrier bags in a bid to reduce the number of bags being used.

Bosses announced a 5p charge for each bag from the food hall would be rolled out across UK stores from May 6, with profits being donated to environmental charity Groundwork, which provides and improves green spaces in neighbourhoods across the country.

The move, which is part of the company’s £200m eco-plan, Plan A, follows a trial in Northern Ireland and south west England which saw use of food carrier bags drop by more than 70% and follows in the footsteps of other companies such as Ikea.

Sir Stuart Rose, chief executive of M&S, said: “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.

“Just imagine if M&S customers right across the UK cut the number of food bags they use by 70% – that’s over 280m bags they’d be saving each year.”

The company said there are no plans yet to extend the scheme to the store’s clothes shopping bags, as the number of these is dwarfed by the 394m food hall bags which are picked up by customers each year.

A spokesperson told edie: “We know we can have the biggest impact if we tackle our food bags first.”

The Green Party applauded the M&S levy, but called for a scheme like that in Ireland to be introduced to reduce the number of plastic bags used by UK shoppers.

Waste and Recycling spokesperson Adrian Ramsay said: “We believe that the only way to achieve a serious and sustainable decrease is through Government legislation introducing a mandatory tax on every plastic bag used.”

The introduction of the charge will coincide with the launch of a new food carrier bag made from 100% recycled materials.

From April 6 to May 5, customers will receive a free M&S Bag for Life with every food transaction before the new charge is introduced.

Kate Martin

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