The number of plastic bags used in the UK has risen for the fifth year running.
New figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) revealed shoppers took 8.5 billion single-use carrier bags from major supermarkets last year – up 200 million from 2013.
It also found the average household has 40 plastic bags stashed away at home.
Around eight million tonnes of plastic ends up in the oceans every year, polluting the marine environment, it added.
Resource Minister Rory Stewart said: “We’re all guilty of taking a carrier bag from a supermarket, storing it somewhere safe at home with the intention of using it again, then forgetting to take it with us next time we go to the shops. The more bags we take, the more plastic makes its way into our environment, blighting our high streets, spoiling our enjoyment of the countryside and damaging our wildlife and marine environments.”
From 5th October, large shops in England will have to charge five pence for single-use plastic bags and keep track of how many they’ve given out and where the proceeds have gone. They will have to report it to the government at the end of May every year.
Small retailers are not obliged to charge but can do so on a voluntary basis.
Defra estimates the initiative could reduce usage by as much as 80% in supermarkets and 50% on the high street.