Shoppers in England will now have to pay for single-use carrier bags following the introduction of a Government scheme designed to reduce litter and minimise damage to the environment.
From Monday 5 October 2015 shoppers will be charged 5p for every plastic carrier bag used, although there are some exceptions.
Unlike in the rest of the UK, the charge only applies to retailers in England with more than 250 employees.
Paper bags are excluded from the levy, while free bags will still be provided for food that requires more protection such as poultry or fish, as well as prescription medicines, certain fresh produce and unwrapped ready-to-eat items.
However, some experts have warned that the new rules send a ‘confusing’ message to consumers, and are calling for the fee to be applied to smaller shops, as is the case in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
‘The reason why it [the levy] has been so effective in the other UK nations is because it is a very simple, clear message to give to customers,’ Alice Ellison, of the British Retail Consortium, told the BBC.
It is thought that around 7.6 billion disposable bags were handed out by the major supermarkets last year.
The Government estimates that the new initiative could reduce the use of carrier bags by up to 80% in supermarkets and by 50% on the High Street.