Co-operative Group, Musgrave Budgens Londis, Spar and United Co-operatives are among retailers to have signed up to the scheme, along with the Association of Convenience Stores, British Retail Consortium and the Scottish Grocers' Federation.
The initiative aims to cut the amount of raw materials and energy used in bag manufacture and minimise the effect of their disposal, as well as educating customers about the bags they use, and helping retailers to understand the opportunity to use less environmentally damaging bags.
Participating retailers pledge to encourage customers to significantly reduce the number of carrier bags used - by prompting re-use, offering
'bags for life', and by asking customers whether they require a bag.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: "Working together, retailers, government and customers can make a real difference to the number of bags used. We look forward to working with colleagues to develop a communications campaign that will make sure customers know the benefit of using fewer plastic bags."
Lowman added that it is vitally important that the government and Waste and Resources Action Programme, which encourages businesses and consumers to recycle and be more efficient in their use of materials, play their role in getting the message across to consumers about the environmental benefits of changing their behaviour.
"Retailers cannot achieve these targets without an energetic joint effort. Reducing customer bag use is win-win. It reduces the environmental impact of bags and reduces the costs that retailers incur in providing plastic bags to customers."
l For more on the industry's environmental work, see p23.