Tesco has reported a 78% drop in single-bag usage since the introduction of the 5p charge in October.

In addition, the number of online shoppers selecting ‘bagless’ deliveries has increased by nearly 50%, the multiple said.

Retailers employing more than 250 people are required to charge 5p for single use carrier bags, with the proceeds donated to charity. However, a number of small stores have voluntarily levied a 5p charge.

Rebecca Shelley, group communications director for Tesco, said: “We knew the government’s bag charge would encourage customers to use fewer plastic bags and it’s clearly had a huge impact.

“We wanted to do as much as we could to help our customers avoid paying the charge - the week before the charge was introduced we gave out free bags for life.”

Environment minister Rory Stewart said: “Cutting the number of plastic bags we use is a small but vital step in reducing plastic waste. It will not only tidy up our towns and countryside, it will also help protect our precious beaches and sea life.”