The government has announced plans to introduce a 5p charge for single use plastic bags in England.

Unveiled by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on Saturday, the levy is expected to be introduced by Autumn 2015 and is likely to follow the Welsh model in which retailers voluntarily give profits to charity.

The charge will only apply to supermarkets and larger stores while small businesses with less than 250 employees are expected to be exempt from the levy to “ensure that they are not disproportionately burdened by the charges”.

“Plastic carrier bags blight our towns and countryside. They take hundreds of years to degrade and can kill animals,” Clegg said.

“This is not a new problem. We’ve waited too long for action. That’s why I am drawing a line under the issue now. The charge will be implemented sensibly - small businesses will be exempt. We will discuss with retailers how the money raised should be spent but I call on them to follow the lead of industry in Wales and donate the proceeds to charity.”

Despite the fact not all independent retailers would be required to charge the levy, local shops have pledged to work with government to make a carrier bag charge in England a success.

Association of Convenience Stores public affairs director Shane Brennan said: “In Wales retailers have seen a significant decline in the amount of bags given away and no significant impact on sales. We welcome the introduction of a similar scheme in England.

“This experience has contributed to a situation where more than 60% of independent retailers now support mandatory carrier bag charging.”

Conrad Davies, who owns four Spar stores in North West Wales, said the Welsh plastic bag charge had been a huge success. In one of his stores, the number of plastic bags handed out dropped from 7,000 to less than 1,000, saving him thousands of pounds.

“It’s saving us a fortune and has enabled us to do more charity work with the proceeds of the levy,” said Conrad. “We give the money to a local youth centre on the condition that they spend it on an environmental project.”