Green move

M&S replaces plastic carrier bags with paper

M&S is flagging its green credentials with paper carrier bags

Marks & Spencer is introducing paper carrier bags in all its stores, becoming the latest chain to replace plastic.

Supermarket groups Aldi, Morrisons and Waitrose already provide paper bags, though some offer plastic bags as an option.

The move is controversial because more energy is used producing paper than plastic and it also weighs more, thereby increasing the carbon footprint of transport companies.

Environmental groups have questioned how many uses a paper bag can actually survive, particularly in wet weather.

Marks & Spencer said it has worked with the University of Sheffield to develop a bag that is made using renewable energy. It said its bags can carry more than 15kg – equivalent to more than six four-pint bottles – and can be reused at least 100 times.

Paper decomposes much more quickly than plastic, making it is less likely to be a source of litter or risk to wildlife. It is also more widely recyclable, while plastic bags can take between 400 and 1,000 years to decompose.

Corporate affairs director Victoria McKenzie-Gould said: “Our customers have always pushed us to lead on the issues they care about most, from animal welfare to reducing food waste.

“And reducing single use plastic is right up there too, which is why we’ve been busy finding ways to use less and making it easier for our customers to do the same. 

“In Food, where the majority of our plastic product packaging is used, we hit our target of removing 75 million pieces this year.

“On plastic bags we were the first retailer to introduce carrier bag charging back in 2008 and since then we’ve been introducing new, more sustainable choices for customers.

“Over 70% of M&S customers are now choosing to bring their own bags or don’t use one at all when shopping with us. But now they want us to go further and find a solution which avoids plastic for those trips when they do need a bag.”

All 1,000-plus stores will offer Forest Stewardship Council certified paper bags at checkouts. The bags are replacing the ecoloop plastic bags for life and there will be a simpler one in Clothing & Home.

One Comment to M&S replaces plastic carrier bags with paper

  1. M&S is not the first retailer to offer paper bags in place of plastic. Boots announced in 2019 that it would phase out all plastic bags by the following year, replacing them with paper. It may be that these retailers are responding to what they perceive to be customer demand, but this is leading them in the wrong direction and is not actually helping the environment.
    Paper is not better for packaging than plastic. In fact it takes 24 trees to make just one ton of paper. Paper manufacture uses 4 times as much water, and significantly contributes to acid rain and eutrophication (algal blooms and dead zones for fish) in water ways. Paper is also a lot heavier than plastic and therefore costs a lot more to transport. According to a briefing paper publishes in the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2011, it would take approximately 7 trucks to transport the same number of paper bags as can be transported by a single truck of plastic bags.
    Not sure that cutting down trees for shopping bags is helping the environment. If we really wanted to reduce plastic litter, we would make plastic bags and single-use items with biodegradable plastic technology, which allows for recycling if collected and if it ends up as litter on land or sea, it will degrade and biodegrade (be a food source for fungi and bacteria) just like nature’s wastes. Let’s save some trees and use paper for the things that only paper can do. Plastic is not the eco-villain it is made out to be – for more information see

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