England's 5p charge on plastic bags appears to have succeeded in changing consumer behaviour after early figures suggested usage has dropped 85 per cent since it was introduced last October.
The seven major supermarkets handed out just over 500 million plastic carriers in the first six months after the levy was introduced, compared with more than 7 billion in the year before it came into force, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Environment minister Therese Coffey hailed the expected full year drop of 6 billion bags as a sign that the move has been successful.
She said: "Taking 6bn plastic bags out of circulation is fantastic news for all of us,. It will mean our precious marine life is safer, our communities are cleaner and future generations won’t be saddled with mountains of plastic taking hundreds of years to breakdown in landfill sites.
“It shows small actions can make the biggest difference, but we must not be complacent, as there is always more we can all do to reduce waste and recycle what we use.”
The charge has resulted in donations of more than £29m from retailers towards good causes including charities and community groups, Defra said.