Marks & Spencer's Plastic Bag Fee Reduces Use, L.A. Passes Plastic Bag Ban

Marks & Spencer's Plastic Bag Fee Reduces Use, L.A. Passes Plastic Bag Ban

In the first 10 weeks of charging customers for plastic bags, U.K. chain Marks & Spencer has seen an 80 percent drop in plastic bag use.

In early May, the company started charging 5 pence per plastic bag and encouraged customers to use reusable bags. Since then, its stores have handed out 70 million fewer bags than in the same period in 2007. From those that customers purchased, the 1.85 pence profit per bag was set aside for Groundwork, a charity developing parks, play areas and gardens. So far, £200,000 has been collected.

The bag fee is part of Marks & Spencer's Plan A, which includes cutting bag use by one-third and sending no waste to landfills.

The U.K. government is pushing other retailers to adopt similar measures, giving them until next April to voluntarily charge for bags, with the threat of government imposing changes if they don't comply.

Some U.K. retailers already charge for bags, and other companies like IKEA and Whole Foods have, or are, phasing out plastic bags.

Cities, too, are going after plastic bags. This month, Los Angeles and Baltimore discussed plastic bags. The L.A. City Council passed a plan to ban plastic bags from stores starting in July 2010, letting customers bring their own bags or pay 25 cents per paper or biodegradable bag. Baltimore, though, turned down a plan that would have forced large stores to offer only paper or reusable bags.

San Francisco was the first U.S. city with a plastic bag ban, and elsewhere, China and Ireland have banned all or free plastic bags.