IKEA Charges Fee for Plastic Bags

IKEA Charges Fee for Plastic Bags

IKEA, the world's largest home furnishings company, was one of the first to impose a fee on plastic bags. IKEA started the fee back in 2007, which was three years before Plastic Bag Ban started.

However, I felt that you would like to read their press release from back then. So I've reprinted it here. As we begin the third year of Plastic Bag Ban Report, we will continue to recognize retailers and others who have taken steps to improve the environment. IKEA has been, and still is, a leader for the environment in the retail world.

IKEA Checks Out of Plastic Bags
IKEA Becomes First Leading UK Retailer to Phase Out Single-Use Plastic Bags

IKEA UK is to become the country's first leading retailer to abandon traditional plastic bags in the latest environment initiative by the world's largest home furnishings company.

This week IKEA - which operates 15 stores in the UK - will go ‘carrier neutral’ by removing all single-use plastic bags from its stores and check-outs.

Over the past year IKEA has dramatically cut plastic bag usage at its stores by introducing a charge for them, encouraging customers instead to opt for its iconic reusable blue bags or to stop using bags altogether.

Following a commitment at World Environment Day last year, IKEA UK pledged to cut plastic bag usage from 32 million to 12 million a year. But the retailer has accelerated the reduction and now decided to stop waste bags altogether after plastic bag usage dropped 95% to just 1.6 million following last year's first step.

Laid out, the previous 32 million bags would have stretched 19,200 Kilometres, or the equivalent of a return journey from London to Tokyo.

Charlie Browne, Environment Manager at IKEA UK said:

“We believe that our role as a retailer is to help our customers make small changes that will have a positive impact on the environment. And the success of the single-use carrier bag phase-out has been down to the support of our customers who have embraced it.

We will continue to implement new initiatives that help us, and our customers, minimise our environmental footprint. This is all part of our aim to show how a series of small steps can together make a big difference.”

The scheme is part of IKEA’s commitment to recycling and reducing waste. IKEA UK recycled 73% of all waste 2006, and has set a goal for 2008 of 90%. This has already been met by the Wembley Store which is recycling 93% of its waste. Comparatively households in the UK recycle on average just 30%.

IKEA will continue to supply its blue ‘bag-for-life’ at the checkout and is also introducing ‘baby blue’ - a smaller version of the iconic bag. Both the bags are durable and designed to be used over and over again around the house or garden. IKEA pledges that if it ever wears out they will replace them free of charge.

Phillip Ward from the Waste &Resources Action Programme (WRAP) welcomed the move saying,

“With at least 13 billion single use carrier bags being given out by retailers each year, this bold move by IKEA sets the pace for others. Reusing bags is a simple way consumers can help to reduce climate change emissions.”

The phase out of single-use plastic bags follows far-reaching steps already taken by IKEA to reduce energy consumption, cut emissions and to source products from sustainable suppliers.

Last month, IKEA announced that it was switching its entire executive vehicle fleet to low emission hybrids and would distribute low-energy light bulbs to its entire UK workforce of 9,600.

The initiative has been welcomed by the Chairman of the Environment Agency, Sir John Harman, who said:

"We welcome this initiative showing a commitment to doing more for our environment. IKEA's move to stop using single-use plastic carrier bags will help encourage more people to use a reusable bag for life and to recycle any surplus plastic bags they already have.

"We hope other retailers and individuals will follow their lead in reducing their plastic bag consumption. If everyone in the UK stopped using plastic bags and switched to a reusable bag, we'd save plastic to tie around the earth 103 times."

• In every year, an estimated 13 billion plastic bags are given away by supermarkets. This is equivalent to over 220 bags for every person in the UK.

• Most carrier bags never get a second use. They get thrown straight in the rubbish bin and take many years to degrade. A plastic bag takes up to 500 years to decay in landfill.
• IKEA has been looking at the issue of how to reduce the environmental impact of its bags for a number of years. 5 years ago, IKEA took the decision to switch from paper to plastic bags because the retailer judged their adverse environmental impact to be lower. IKEA have looked at the full life cycle of paper versus plastic. Of course paper is bio degradable and can contain recycled fibers. However one pallet of plastic bags equates to 10 of paper or 10 to one lorry loads. So there are extra emissions from trucks and in transport congestion impacts and noise. Paper bags are more likely to be single use too.

• Last year IKEA was invited along with many other large retailers to be involved with DEFRA, the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland in establishing a voluntary code of practice for retailers aimed at reducing the number of plastic and paper bags distributed to consumers. The proposal was to have a target of 25% reduction in numbers by the end of the first year, rising to 50% by the end of the third year. Unfortunately the group was unable to reach a consensus for these targets. Instead a proposal was agreed to have a target of a 25% reduction on the overall environmental impact by the end of year two and to look at the possibility of going further to a 50% reduction by the end of 2010.

• IKEA will offer customers a replacement to get their goods home with it’s ‘blue bags for life’ which are designed to be robust and re-usable. IKEA will charge 15p for Baby Blue bag and 30p for Big Blue bags. IKEA makes no profit on these bags

• The initiative is part of IKEA’s commitment to environmental sustainability. For example, IKEA has worked hard to significantly reduced packaging across a whole range of product ranges including:
- Glass candle holders formerly sold in cardboard packages…..today the majority are sold with no individual packaging just trays/outer packaging to ensure safe transportation to the stores.
- LACK 55x55cm coffee table. Used to come in cardboard packaging now come with a minimal shrink-wrapped pack.
- GRILLA frying pans’ handle has been developed so that it folds inside the pan meaning it can be packaged much smaller than previously

• IKEA’s sustainability vision is “IKEA’s business shall have an overall positive impact on people & the environment”. Over the last 50 years, IKEA has shown how a series of small steps can build to make a real difference to the impact that business and its customers have on the environment. There is no compromise between being a good business & doing good business!

• For more info on IKEA’s Social &Environmental responsibility visit:

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