IKEA may be cheap, but it’s not free. Or, at least, its bags won’t continue to be free to U.S. consumers. In an effort to reduce landfill, IKEA will charge $.05 per disposable plastic bag in all U.S. stores after March 15, 2007. Money from bag sales will be donated to American Forests, a non-profit conservation group.
The Swedish retail giant forecasts that their bag consumption will drop from 70 million to 35 million per year by 2008. IKEA is simultaneously decreasing the price of their reusable blue-and-yellow totes to $.59 (from $.99). IKEA's efforts do not come without solid research: their U.K. stores dropped bag consumption by 95 percent after the chain began charging for them.
Eventually, IKEA hopes to cut out use of plastic check-out bags altogether. This may be easy for some stores, where customers can back their cars into the loading area, but seems unlikely in metropolitan areas like New York City or San Francisco, where people take IKEA-provided buses or public transportation to reach the out-in-the-sticks mega-stores.
Still, if IKEA can reduce even a few of the 100 billion plastic bags Americans throw out each year, it's a move in the right direction. "It's a small step," North American IKEA president Pernille Lopez told the Associated Press, "but we feel it's good for us as a company.''