Marks & Spencer will introduce a charge of 5p ( about 8 cents USD) for the bags at its 600 UK food stores. Marks & Spencer is to stop offering free throwaway carrier bags in a landmark move to fight "plastic poison". The company will introduce a charge of 5p for the bags at its 600 UK food stores.
The decision is a major breakthrough for the Daily Mail campaign to cut the waste caused by the 13billion single-use carriers handed out by retailers every year.
M&S executives believe their move could cut customers' use of throwaway bags by more than 70 per cent. The Mail's "Banish the Bags" campaign, launched yesterday, won massive support from political leaders, academics, environmental campaigners and celebrities.
Nick Jenkins, of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, summed up the reaction when he said: "Retailers have to take a lead in stopping shoppers from the madness of using plastic bags just once. "Ninety per cent of the debris in our oceans is plastic. That is a horrifying statistic."
M&S has already run highly successful trials of its 5p scheme in Northern Ireland and the south-west of England, where there was a huge fall in the number of bags issued.
While throwaway carriers will cost 5p, customers will be offered free "bags for life". The company expects to hand out some 20million in April in preparation for the 5p charge beginning in May. It will use cash from the scheme to fund Groundwork, an environmental charity that provides parks, gardens and play areas.
M&S chief executive Sir Stuart Rose said: "We want to make it easy for our customers to help the environment and our trials have shown us they want to take action. "Just imagine if M&S customers across the UK cut the number of food bags they use by 70 per cent - that's over 280million bags."
The move will heap pressure on the other national chains. Retailers are due to hold crunch talks with the Government's packaging body Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) today amid accusations that they have done too little to tackle the menace. The Government is also under pressure to force them to take meaningful action.
The Mail yesterday highlighted the huge waste and harm associated with single-use bags, which are made from a component of crude oil. An average of more than 800 are issued to every UK family each year. But they are used for an average of just 20 minutes before being dumped and carted to vast landfill sites where they can take centuries to rot.
Fewer than 10 in 1,000 are recycled. Millions spread like urban tumbleweed to pollute the countryside, rivers and the seas with deadly consequences for wildlife, including millions of seabirds, turtles, seals and dolphins.
The Marks & Spencer scheme will apply throughout its food stores. M&S Simply Food franchise partners, including BP and Moto, are supporting the initiative.
The bags for life will be replaced free of charge by the store when they wear out and will be sent for recycling. Over the next year, some 40 areas will benefit from cash from the scheme going to Groundwork. Tony Hawkhead, the charity's chief executive, said: "Not only will this reduce the amount of food carrier bags sent to landfill sites but it will also help improve the quality of life in towns and cities across the country."
"We all want our neighbourhoods to be cleaner and greener and our experience shows that when a major household name takes the initiative, it can encourage millions of people to change their behaviour." The decision by Sir Stuart has tapped into the public mood. There is a wealth of evidence from around the world that shoppers want stores to take a more responsible approach.
A voluntary ban by supermarkets in France has taken millions of free throwaway bags off the streets, while a bag tax in Ireland reduced usage by 90 per cent when it was adopted in 2002. In the UK, Ikea and the budget chains Aldi and Lidl also charge for plastic bags. The Mail has been inundated with support for our initiative.
Tory leader David Cameron said: "I wholeheartedly back the Daily Mail's campaign to 'banish the bags'. "It is absolutely vital that we urge all supermarkets and retailers to act responsibly and look at their policy. "However, we as consumers must also change our attitude."
Jeremy Paxman, a keen angler and presenter of BBC2's Newsnight, endorsed the campaign on air on Tuesday night. While reading newspaper front pages, he announced: "The Daily Mail is starting a campaign - thank heavens someone is - to banish plastic bags."
Bruce Sparrow, of the Ramblers Association, said: "We fully support the Daily Mail's call for a plastic bag ban. "Plastic bags are an eyesore and a menace to the countryside and urban open spaces."
Author Jilly Cooper said: "The animal issue is more important to me than anything else. "I passionately believe in trying to get rid of all these plastic bags."
Journalist Jonathan Dimbleby said: "Plastic bags are immensely damaging in almost every way you can imagine. "They litter our roads and countryside. They are extremely environmentally harmful. "There are perfectly adequate substitutes."
Some 33 local authorities in London, involving politicians from all parties, support either a ban or fee for single use plastic bags. They hope a Parliamentary bill will give them the power to force the change.
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