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IKEA to Charge Customers for Plastic Bags

IKEA U.S. will no longer offer customers free plastic bags. Beginning March 15, every plastic bag at every IKEA U.S. store across the nation will cost five cents. IKEA has also lowered the price on its reusable ‘Big Blue Bag’ from $.59 to $.99, hoping that one blue bag will replace hundreds of single-use bags.

According to Deborah Gangloff, executive director, American Forests, this program will phase out into a ‘no plastic bag usage’ policy, although it’s not clear when that will happen.

With the launch, IKEA says it will become one of the first major U.S. retailers to charge customers for plastic bags. IKEA projects that the number of plastic bags used by their U.S. customers will be reduced by at least 50 percent from 70 million to 35 million in the first year. Ikea says proceeds of up to $1,750,000 through March 2008 will go to American Forests. That figure matches the revenue of selling 35 million bags. It’s not clear how much Ikea will save by cutting its bag purchases in half.

According to a survey conducted by IKEA, the company predicts that the reaction to the program will be mostly favorable. Those who viewed the program unfavorably said that having to remember to bring the reusable blue bag will be an inconvenience, according to Mona Astra Liss, IKEA’s corporate PR director. Employees will receive training on what to say to customers and signage at the point of sale will explain the program.

When the  program was launched in IKEA stores in the UK in late Spring 2006, plastic bag and reduction has been a monumental 95 percent. Also, blue bag purchases increased.

“My work with leading companies tells me that IKEA is one of the global leaders in managing environmental responsibility,” says IKEA advisor and co-author of Green to Gold, Andrew Winston. “The plastic bag program is just one step in a long line of initiatives the company has undertaken. It also shows how broadly the company thinks about environmental challenges and how customers can help.”

Other businesses, including the no-frills Aldi supermarket chain and warehouse clubs like Costco, charge for disposable bags, according to the Associated Press.

The National Retail Federation, an industry group, was not aware of any other large national retailer that has a plastic bag fee. Some grocery chains do provide incentives like discounts and shopping spree raffles to customers who bring their own bags, spokesman Scott Krugman said.

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