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Single-use carrier bags will double in price from next spring, with the charge being extended to all shops in England, the government has announced.

The decision to bump up the minimum charge from 5p to 10p comes following widespread public support for the policy.

And small retailers that employ 250 people or less will no longer be exempt from the levy, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

The department said it has committed to implementing both changes from April 2021.

Image: George Eustice dismissed the idea of a total ban on single-use carrier bags

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: "The UK is already a world leader in this global effort, and our carrier bag charge has been hugely successful in taking billions of harmful plastic bags out of circulation.

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"But we want to go further by extending this to all retailers so we can continue to cut unnecessary waste and build back greener.

"I hope our pioneering track record on single-use plastics will inspire many more countries to follow suit, so we can take on plastic waste together and implement lasting change."

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Speaking to Sky News on Monday morning, Mr Eustice said the government has had to "postpone certain plans we had such as bans on plastic stirrers and straws" due to the coronavirus pandemic, which will now come into force in October.

He said: "This carrier bag charge has been a tremendous success – it was introduced in 2015 applying first to the major supermarkets. It will be extended to all retailers from April – this is a policy that has had widespread public support.

"Just introducing that small charge on a plastic bag makes people think twice and as a result supermarkets have seen a 95% reduction in single-use plastic carrier bag use."

But he dismissed the potential move of a total ban on single-use plastic bags after supermarket giant Morrisons began trials of paper bags, which could remove plastic bags from all of its 494 stores.

He added: "We don't think a total ban on single-use plastic bags is necessary or appropriate, because this charge has been remarkably successful."

Supplied by Morrisons press office
Image: Supermarket chain Morrisons is trialling paper bags

The 5p charge for plastic bags was introduced in England in 2015, with the most recent figures showing that the number of single-use bags distributed by large supermarkets has fallen by more than 95%.

The average shopper in England now buys just four single-use bags a year, compared to around 140 in 2014.

Campaigners welcomed the move to extend the charge, but Greenpeace said that carrier bags were only "one part of the problem".

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