I was interested to hear that Marks and Spencers will be charging for plastic bags. The idea could be a clever marketing ploy. Most M&S customers have quite an inelastic demand. It is the kind of customer who is quite happy to pay £3 for a ready made meal. If you ready to pay 50% extra for food, presumably you won’t mind paying 5p for a carrier bag. Although, it is only a relatively small gesture, it may boost the image of M&S as a ‘green retailer’ this boost to PR is probably more valuable than the very minor irritation of having to pay 5p per bag.
It follows a trial in 50 M&S stores where usage fell by 70% after charging for plastic bags.
From an economic point of view this scheme should help increase allocative efficiency. Plastic bags do have a cost, not just to make, but to the environment. If they are free they encourage overconsumption and social inefficiency
I’m sure other stores like Tesco will be watching the experiment with interest. If it goes down well, other stores who are generally more price competitive, may consider it as well.
It is estimated the UK gives out 13 billion plastic bags each year.
Personally, I support this charge. I think it is good to remember the cost involved in using plastic bags, it creates greater incentives to bring your own and avoid unnecessary usage of plastic.