The number of plastic bags used in the United States that end up in landfills is staggering — some 100 billion bags, which represents a recycling rate of less than one percent. Most Americans will use the bags only once to tote a purchase, yet the plastic persists on our planet for up to a thousand years.
IKEA home furnishing stores may be the first major company in the country to take a stand against the ubiquitous waste. The Swedish manufacturer will no longer be offering customers free plastic bags…
Beginning March 15, every plastic bag at every IKEA store in the U.S. will cost five cents. The proceeds from the campaign will go to American Forests, the nation’s oldest nonprofit citizens conservation organization, to plant trees to restore forests and offset CO2 emissions. As an alternative, and to influence customer habits in an environmentally responsible direction, IKEA is reducing the cost of its reusable ‘Big Blue Bag’ to 59 cents, from a dollar.
The hope is that one roomy, reusable bag will replace hundreds of single-use bags, and that customers may use the durable tote while shopping elsewhere, saving even more bags. This program was launched in IKEA stores in the UK in late Spring 2006, and reduction has been a monumental 95 percent.
"We realize that our ‘Bag the Plastic Bag Program’ is a small step. But we know our customers want to help and support the sustainability of our planet — for today — and for the future of our children," says Pernille Spiers-Lopez, president, IKEA North America. "This program lets our customers know we have our stake in the ground and are committed to continuing to be an environmentally responsible company."
The longer term goal is to completely eliminate the use of disposable plastic bags in all IKEA stores. The company 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 has proven its dedication to the environment in a number of ways. The wood used for IKEA products comes from well-managed forests and not from intact, natural or old-growth forests, to help promote healthy forestry practices. A code of conduct for suppliers around the world measures IKEA’s partners on health, safety, social and environmental concerns. When developing products, IKEA abides by the strictest requirements for chemicals and substances in the world, regardless of where the products are sold.
"This program represents another solid step in environmental leadership for IKEA," says Deborah Gangloff, executive director, American Forests. "The benefits in terms of waste reduction alone will be enormous. And while this program phases out into ‘no plastic bag usage,’ the millions of trees planted in environmental restoration projects will help clean our air, purify our water, provide wildlife habitat and improve the quality of life for all people."