The government has confirmed plans to extend the single-use plastic bag charge to all retailers and increase the minimum charge to at least 10p.
Although the move would be subject to consultation later this year, it was a matter of how and not if the scheme was brought in, it said.
The number of single use plastic bags has fallen by 86% across the UK’s seven biggest supermarkets since the 5p charge was introduced in 2015. This is equivalent to just 19 bags in 2016/17 per person in England, compared with 140 bags before the government introduced the charge.
“We are committed to being a global leader in tackling plastic pollution. It blights our seas and land and chokes our wildlife,” said environment secretary Michael Gove.
“Thanks to the public’s support, our plastic bag charge has been hugely successful. It has taken 13 billion plastic bags out of circulation in the last two years alone.
“Today we are building on that success to ensure we leave our environment in a better state than we inherited it.”
The move will extend the charge to businesses with fewer than 250 employees and has been welcomed by small shops groups.
“We have long campaigned for compulsory plastic bag charging to be extended to all businesses just as it is in Wales and Scotland,” said ACS chief executive James Lowman. “About half of independent convenience stores in England have voluntarily introduced plastic bag charging, using the funds raised from the charge to support local and environmental causes. Furthermore, most of the independent retailers that do not currently charge for plastic bags support the introduction of a universal charge.
“The level of the charge should balance discouraging the use of single-use plastic bags while avoiding unreasonable costs for consumers who may forget reusable bags or make unplanned shopping trips. We will work with the government to help make any extension of plastic bag charging effective and workable.”
NFRN national president Mike Mitchelson said: “We welcome the announcement that the 5p plastic bag levy is likely to be extended to smaller shops. Independent retailers are environmentally friendly and like to play their part in reducing plastic waste so many of our members have already chosen to implement the 5p charge. As a result, they have been delighted to donate the proceeds from the charge to local and worthy good causes.
“The 5p charge has made a huge difference to plastic bag usage and all independent retailers can look forward to playing their part in reducing further waste and raise money for local charities.”
However, the government’s intervention comes well behind the big supermarkets, who have all already ditched 5p bags.
Asda and Morrisons dispensed with 5p bags from March, Tesco scrapped them last year, while Sainsbury’s stopped selling single-use plastic bags when the tax first came in.