Flatpack furniture giant Ikea has become the first retailer to start charging for plastic bags in Britain.
As of this weekend customers at the many UK branches of the value-for-money Scandinavian furniture store will pay five pence for each bag used – a charge which will rise to ten pence per bag by the autumn.
Ikea says it has introduced the charge to enhance its environmental credentials. The global furniture store, which operates 221 stores in countries as far apart as Canada, Kuwait and Malaysia, conducted tests in Edinburgh on charging which led to a 90 per cent drop in the number of bags used.
The company has highlighted the need to cut down on use of plastic bags, saying that their poor biodegradability, damaging visual environmental impact and consumption of chemicals and energy used provided a compelling argument for its decision.
The Environment Agency responded to Ikea's announcement by praising it as a "great move", encouraging other major retailers to follow suit.
Ikea hopes to cut its consumption of bags from 32 million to 20 million – a substantial company improvement but only a drop in the sea of the 17 billion plastic bags that Britain's retailers provide for customers every year.