Marks & Spencer's customers will be charged 5p for a carrier bag in its food stores from today.

The retailer has been gearing up for today's carrier bag charge across all of its food stores for the past month and claims to have handed out more than 15 million free reusable bags for life to customers.

Customers will also be able to return any unwanted or used carrier bags to M&S stores for recycling, and purchase bags for life.

“This will be one of the most significant changes we've made since we launched Plan A last January and we believe that it will help us to reduce the number of single use carrier bags our customers use by around 280 million each year,” said CEO Stuart Rose.

“M&S customers have certainly responded extremely positively to our bag for life giveaway and we hope that they will bring the bags with them each time they shop with us,” he added.