Marks & Spencer stores across Ulster will be the first in the UK to charge customers 5p for a plastic bag as part of a major 'green' pilot project.
The scheme - due to begin in July - is part of the company's massive £200m project to encourage customers to be more environmentally friendly.
The bag trial, to be introduced in two stages, will see M&S give away a 'Bag for Life' for one month before introducing a 5p charge for food carrier bags.
From June 4 the 14 Ulster stores will receive the set of three brand new 'Bag for Life' carrier bags designed by illustrator David Downton.
The new bags, which will normally cost 10p, are made from 100% recycled materials and will be given away free with each food transaction. When worn out, the bags will be replaced free of charge and recycled.
Then from July 1 customers will pay 5p for every plastic bag.
If it is successful the green scheme will be rolled out across the UK. All of the funds raised from carrier bag sales will be donated to local charity, Groundwork Northern Ireland, and used for environmental regeneration projects in disadvantaged areas across the province.
The firm's divisional executive for Ireland, Neil Hyslop, said the project was a way of trying to change customer habits.
"We have all got into the habit of using too many carrier bags and we want to explore how we can encourage people to change their behaviour," he said.
"We hope that giving away our new 'Bags for Life' throughout June will encourage customers to reuse and recycle them rather than pay the 5p charge for our standard food carrier bags when we introduce it in July."
Mary McKee, director of Groundwork Northern Ireland, said: "We are delighted that Marks & Spencer has taken this bold move towards reducing carrier bag usage and chosen to support Groundwork as part of the trial. The money raised will help fund projects that will address vital environmental issues across Northern Ireland."
M&S's Plan A aims to reduce carrier bag use by a third and send no waste to landfill.
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