Marks & Spencer proclaim plastic bag levy a success

Posted by Editorial on 25th July 2008

Marks & Spencer announced yesterday that it has achieved an 80% reduction in the total number of food carrier bags used since the UK-wide launch of carrier bag charging in early May. The company reports that such a figure means that M&S customers have used about 70 million less plastic bags in the last ten weeks alone.

With all profits from the 5p charge going to charity, in the same period, over £200,000 has been raised for M&S’ environmental charity partner, Groundwork. The money is reportedly being invested in creating or improving ‘Greener Living Spaces’ such as parks, play areas and gardens.

Sir Stuart Rose, M&S Chairman, believes the widely publicised strategy has worked and claims that consumers are willing to adapt. “It is fair to say that M&S’ carrier bag charging policy has provoked a lot of debate but these figures show that the overwhelming majority of our customers support charging and are already helping us to make a huge difference by bringing their own bags in with them when they shop with us,” he said. “We hope to encourage more customers to take action with our free Bag for Life giveaway this weekend.”

Marks & Spencer began charging 5p for its single use food carrier bags in all of its UK stores on the 6th May as a part of their plan to reduce carrier bag usage by a third and send no waste to landfill from its operations by 2012.

M&S also made two additional changes to help reduce the environmental impact of carrier bags even further. Customers can return any used carrier bags to any till point or customer service desk at M&S stores for recycling and M&S now utilise a new standard food carrier bag made from 100% post consumer waste in its stores nation-wide. This move is reducing the amount of virgin plastic M&S uses by 3,400 tonnes per year, according to the company.

In Australia, a plastic bag levy is to be trialled in Victoria throughout August in IGA, Coles and Woolworths supermarkets. The results of the trial will be analysed independently and will guide future policy decisions by state and federal governments. The South Australian Government has, however, already committed to banning plastic bags from the beginning of next year.