The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has urged the Government to extend the plastic bag charge to small retailers as soon as possible after Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) published figures which show that sales of plastic bags by the seven biggest retailers in England have fallen by 90% since the 5p charge was introduced in 2015.

The figures also reveal that 5p plastic bag sales have contributed around £169m toward charities and other good causes since the charge was introduced on 5 October 2015.

The Government published its Resources and Waste Strategy in December 2018 which set out proposals to extend the current plastic bag charge to all retailers, but the timescales for introduction have not yet been confirmed.

All retailers in Scotland and Wales are currently required to charge at least 5p for single use plastic bags. Only England lags behind, with businesses employing fewer than 250 people currently exempt from the regulations.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We have repeatedly called on the Government to extend the plastic bag charge to small businesses. Many retailers have chosen to introduce a voluntary bag charge as a way of raising money for local charities and reducing the number of single-use bags being given out to customers, but to remove any confusion for customers and have consistency across the UK, we need a universal charge in England as soon as possible.”

Figures from the 2018 Local Shop Report show that 46% of independent retailers have introduced a voluntary charge for plastic bags, with widespread support for a universal charge.