Prime minister Theresa May is to extend the 5p plastic bag charge to all retailers and double it to 10p. These changes are subject to a consultation later this year.
Defra said the 5p charge levied on bags provided by large retailers had seen plastic bag sales in England’s largest supermarkets drop by 86%, with 13 billion taken out of circulation since it was introduced in 2015.
This was equivalent to just 19 bags per person compared with 140 bags each before the charge began.
Small and medium-sized enterprises – not currently covered by the charge – are estimated to supply 3.4 billion plastic bags a year.
May said: “We have taken huge strides to improve the environment, and the charge on plastic bags in supermarkets and big retailers has demonstrated the difference we can achieve by making small changes to our everyday habits.
“I want to leave a greener, healthier environment for future generations. But with plastic in the sea set to treble, we know we need to do more to better protect our oceans and eliminate this harmful waste.”
Federation of Independent Retailers president Mike Mitchelson welcomed the proposed extension of the levy to his members’ shops, noting that many had already voluntarily imposed the charge and donated the money raised to local good causes.