Uniqlo to phase out plastic bags

Fashion retailer Uniqlo's parent company Fast Retailing is set to remove single-use plastic bags from its brands, replacing them with reusable and paper alternatives.

Uniqlo to phase out plastic bags

The new bags will be introduced across all of Fast Retailing's 12 global markets by 1 September

Under the plans, all Uniqlo stores still offering single-use plastic bags will switch to the new paper bags on 1 September. The bags will be made using paper certified as sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

The bags will initially be given out for free, before a 10 yen (around 9p) charge is introduced in Uniqlo’s home nation, Japan, next January. This charge will then be expanded to cover Europe, the US and South Korea at a later date in 2020.

The aim of the charge is to encourage consumers to ditch single-use bags altogether in favour of reusable alternatives. Uniqlo has therefore launched a range of reusable tote bags made using post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic bottles to complement its new paper bags. Each of the reusable bags contains the equivalent of six plastic bottles and retails for £1.49.

Fast Retailing predicts that the switch to reusable and paper bags, combined with its other efforts to reduce plastic packaging, will prevent the use of 7,800 tonnes of plastics annually by the end of 2020. One of its other notable moves in this space is to remove plastic covers and hangers from slippers, with the phase-out due to be completed across all of its markets by the end of 2019. Fast Retailing is also exploring alternatives to the flexible plastic packs currently used to house its Heattech range of underwear.

“Sustainability is the biggest challenge for all types of companies,” Fast Retailing’s chief executive Tadashi Yanai said. “Higher costs are not an excuse for inaction if we aim to be an industry leader.”

It’s in the bag

With the war on plastics showing no signs of slowing down, Uniqlo is just one of many high-profile retailers to have introduced or expanded their paper bag offerings in recent months.

Last month saw Boots become the first UK national pharmacy, health and beauty retailer to phase-out single-use plastic bags, for example, with similar switches having previously been made by the likes of Primark and Zara.

This trend is particularly pronounced in the supermarket sector here in the UK. Sainsbury’s is currently in the process of removing all plastic bags from its in-store bakeries by September, following the successful introduction of paper bags to produce aisles earlier this summer. Similar offerings are also being rolled out across Morrisons and Aldi.

Supermarkets are additionally targeting plastic bags at the checkout, with Morrisons and Iceland having both introduced paper alternatives in the past 12 months. Those without paper bag offerings are increasingly removing 5p bags also, in favour of more sturdy and reusable options.

Sarah George

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