The 5p plastic bag charge will be doubled to 10p and extended to all retailers and not just big businesses, prime minister Theresa May has announced.
The proposal will be subject to consultation later this year, to help fight global plastic pollution.
The 5p plastic bag charge was introduced in October 2015 and was not a requirement for SMEs. The charge saw plastic bag sales in major supermarkets drop by 86%. This is equivalent to just 19 bags in 2016/17 per person in England, compared with 140 bags each before the government introduced the charge.
It is estimated over 3.4 billion single-use plastic bags are supplied annually by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Trade bodies representing 40,000 small retailers have already launched a voluntarily approach to a 5p charge, but this accounts for less than one-fifth of England’s estimated 220,000 SMEs.
Environment secretary Michael Gove said: “We are committed to being a global leader in tackling plastic pollution. It blights our seas and land and chokes our wildlife. 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.”
Mike Mitchelson, national president of The Federation of Independent Retailers (NFRN), added: “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.”