A five pence mandatory charge for single-use carrier bags will be introduced from Autumn 2015, the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, announced at the weekend.
He said more than seven billion carrier bags were issued by supermarkets in England last year, with too many ending up in landfill or scattered around streets and rivers killing wildlife and costing tax-payers millions of pounds to clean up.
“Plastic carrier bags blight our towns and countryside. They take hundreds of years to degrade and can kill animals,” he stressed.
“This is not a new problem. We’ve waited too long for action. That’s why I am drawing a line under the issue now. The charge will be implemented sensibly - small businesses will be exempt.
“We will discuss with retailers how the money raised should be spent but I call on them to follow the lead of industry in Wales and donate the proceeds to charity.
Meanwhile local shops have pledged to work with Government to make a carrier bag charge in England a success.
Association of Convenience Stores public affairs director Shane Brennan said: “Retailers share the environmental concerns about the impact of single-use carrier bags and have worked over a number of years to reduce the amount of bags they give away.
“Our experience in Wales has been positive. Retailers have seen a significant decline in the amount of bags given away and no significant impact on sales. We welcome the introduction of a similar scheme in England.
“This experience has contributed to a situation where more than 60% of independent retailers now support mandatory carrier bag charging. We will consider carefully the proposals that are announced and stress the need for the scheme to reflect the model in Wales, which is designed to minimise the red tape burden on shops, and give local shops the freedom to use the money raised from bag charges to donate to the charities they choose.
“However, we will oppose any measures that are similar to the scheme in Northern Ireland which is a bureaucratic tax that requires retailers to collect the revenue and hand it over to national Executive.”