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Sweden's IKEA Promotes Environmental Consciousness in the United States

Quote from a Reuters article on MSNBC
Sweden's IKEA will charge U.S. customers five cents for disposable plastic shopping bags in what the international furniture giant said on Wednesday was a first step to ending their use altogether. IKEA said the decision to stop giving away free bags to customers aimed to reduce the estimated 100 billion bags thrown away by all U.S. consumers each year.
IKEA is believed to be first major retailer in the United States to undertake such a program, according to National Retail Federation spokesman Scott Krugman. (...)
The average American family of four throws away about 1,500 single-use polyethylene bags, which do not degrade for around 1,000 years, IKEA said. Less than 1 percent are recycled.
The NGO Reusable Bags mentions similar statistics: "According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. An estimated 12 million barrels of oil is required to make that many plastic bags." This  contributes a bit to dependency on foreign oil and global warming, in addition to increasing the shopping costs to consumers by 4 billion dollars annually. Plastic bags pollute the air in the production process and later pollute the soil of landfills or kills sea animals, writes Reusable Bags in The Real Cost of "Free". I don't know how many plastic bags the average German or European consumes, but it is definitely too many. Germans produce increasingly less trash, but it is still too much.

From the British ITV News:
Analysis by the Local Government Association revealed that UK households send almost 27 million tonnes of rubbish to landfill every year. This is equivalent to almost half a tonne for every home in the country. The figures also show that Britain sends seven million tonnes more rubbish into landfill than any other country in Europe. Germany, which has a population 25% larger than the UK, disposes of less than half the amount of rubbish into the ground.


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Don S on :

Ikea could save far more energy by improving their customer service to something approqaching modern levels. Consider; I had to make a trip to Ikea recently to buy a bed and some additional shelving, then hire a cab to cart it home. Why cannot I order this kind of thing online and have it delivered to my house? IKEA makes a big splashs by such announcements but in reality they are far behind their competitors - who do allow me to order online.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"Why cannot I order this kind of thing online and have it delivered to my house?" I checked the IKEA websites in Germany, UK and US. You can do homeshopping, i.e. order online and have IKEA deliver the stuff to you. For the record: The Atlantic Review does NOT receive any money for these advertisements, but I think we should. So, IKEA, if you are reading this, I could need a few things... ;-)

Don S on :

Joerg, Ummm, IKEA is piloting home delivery in the UK - not in my area (either of my areas) yet. It's in a small area north of London. My pet peeve with IKEA is that they don't keep popular items in stock. I'd locate what I want and then find it out of stock - return another day please. Do that twice in a row and it gets very old. AND all the repeated trips waste energy and increase greenhouse gasses! What's a few poly bags next to that?!!! Online shopping could take care of that problem because they could operates it out of a big warehouse somewhere. I wouldn't mind waiting an extra day if I knew I would get it at a specific day and time no jive.

Don S on :

The shopping bags problem is easily solved. Reusable cotton bags. I have a set of 6-7 or them which I have used for 12 years to carry groceries and other kinds of shopping, so my personal share of plastic bags is probably 10% of the usual person's annual take. Not that it much matters when you consider all the plastic containers for all the stuff which goes in those bags - pasta, soups cans, jars of sauce, etc. An interesting story broke last week about Al Gore. In fact I might go so far as to term it 'In Incovenient Fact': Al Gore uses more 20X the electricity of the average American family. That is more than 2000% of the average! Mr. Gore also managed to increase his monthly consumption from "an average of 16,200 kWh per month in 2005, to 18,400 kWh per month in 2006." for an astounding year on year increase of 13.6%! Mr. Gore apparently usues only 'green' power, however - so apparently it doesn't count. This is news to me, but apparently all the best people are using a better class of electricity nowdays. Barbara Streisand, Arianna Huffington, all the Hollywood stars do it! I'm not sure how they do it. I thought everyone just hooked up the power grid and got the same thing out of the lines; but it isn't so. Our betters (like Mr. Gore and Hollywood stars) are now purchasing upscale electricity! And in vast quantities, too! Here is what I think Mr. Gore may be getting at: it's important that average americans reduce their usage of scarce resources - so as to offset the increased usage by fat cats such as Mr. Gore? Think: if ten average american households reduced their usage by only 10% each they would cancel out Mr. Gore's increased usage and we would be back to zero. Of course it would take many, many more americans reducing to offset the needs of the Hollywood crowd; but we're glad to do it for our elite's who we need to ahow us the way to act. Verbally if not in actual behavior....

Don S on :

Reusable bags are a great idea, but one thing which gets me is the crap construction of the reusable bags that British chain stores try to sell me! My local Sainsbury has a reusable bag made from plastic reinforced with jute fibre or the like. I turn my nose up at the quality of these - they are apt to start cracking with not much use - will split open relatively easily, and if it gets dirty how do I wash it? The kind of use I give a bag will limit use to maybe 20-30 trips. My old cotton bags are superior on all counts. They crumple up to fit into my knapsack or inside each other. They are strong and incredibly durable. When they get soiled I drop them into the washing machine with my shorts and t-shirts and they come out white and ready to dry on my eco-friendly drying rack. And I can't imagine they cost any more than the cheapo plastiky things?!!! The last time I was at IKEA in the UK they were charging 10P per bag for the disposables - about 4X the US charge. The trouble is that I had to estimate how many I would need to pack my stuff BEFORE packing - so ended up paying for 3 bags I didn't need. So the charge ended up increasing my waste rather than reducing it, though that problem could be eliminated by a simple buyback scheme.

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