It has been announced by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) that England has used six billion fewer plastic bags since the introduction of the 5p charge.
The move has also resulted in more than £29 million in donations from retailers that has gone towards good causes including charities and community groups.
It is thought that 8 million tonnes of plastic makes its way into oceans around the world each year, and the savings are thought to equal the weight of 300 blue wales, 300,000 sea turtles, or 3 million pelicans.
Although not all apply the charge, retailers with 250 or more full-time employees must charge a minimum of 5p for shopping bags provided in store or for deliveries.
Smaller shops and those that supply paper bags are excluded from charging customers.
The news comes as a great relief for environmental campaigners, as in 2015 it was announced that 8.3 billion plastic bags were used in 2014, representing a 2.3 per cent increase from 2013.
Environment Minister, Thérèse Coffey said in a statement:
Taking six billion 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 sat taking hundreds of years to breakdown in landfill sites.
“The 5p charge has clearly been a huge success – not only for our environment but for good causes across the country that have benefitted from an impressive £29 million raised.”
More than 61 per cent of the total bags issued were done so by the main supermarket retailers (Asda, Marks and Spencer’s, Sainsbury, Tesco, The Co-operative group, Waitrose and WM Morrison).
It was found that Tesco reduced its plastic bag use by 30 million alone and expects its Bags of Help scheme to provide more than £20 million in the first year to environmental projects.
At the time of launch, the Government expected to reduce single-use carrier bags by up to 80 per cent and a saving of £60 million in clean up costs.