Plastic bags sales by the biggest supermarkets in England have dropped by 90% since a 5p charge was introduced in 2015, government figures show.
Asda, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, The Co-operative Group, Tesco and Waitrose sold 549 million plastic bag in 2018-19, half the amount sold in the previous year.
Customers now buy, on average, 10 bags a year compared to 140 bags in 2014.
The levy was introduced in October 2015 in a bid to tackle plastic pollution.
Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said the figures were “a powerful demonstration that we are collectively calling time on being a throwaway society.”
In England only retailers with more than 250 employees have to charge customers for the use of plastic bags.
This contrasts with the situation in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales where there is a minimum 5p charge for all retailers.
Shops are expected to donate the money to charitable causes – and the charge is estimated to have raised £169 million since 2015.
In December 2018 the government launched a consultation on raising the minimum charge to 10p.
According to government scientists the amount of plastic in the seas is set to treble in a decade.
Across the world, more than 300 million tonnes of plastic is produced annually – around eight million of which enters the oceans.
The plastic breaks down in to smaller pieces which can then be mistaken, by birds and fish for food, clogging their digestive tracks.
Each year 100,000 animals in the sea are killed by plastic.