The number of plastic bags handed out in the UK increased last year, according to latest figures.

WRAP figures reveal that almost eight billion plastic bags were distributed in 2011, a 5.4% rise on 2010’s figure of 7.57 billion.

Despite the year-on-year increase, it still marks a 35% decrease on the number of bags handed out in 2006, the first year WRAP conducted the report.

Northern Ireland and England saw the biggest increases in the number handed out, showing 8.1% and 7.5% increases respectively. Northern Ireland is set to introduce a 5p levy in April 2013 which will rise to 10p in 2014.

Last September, the Prime Minister warned retailers in England that if the number of plastic bags in the country weren’t reduced, he would take action. It had also been reported that environmental secretary Caroline Spelman had wanted to include a levy in this year’s Budget but had been overruled.

Wales and Scotland managed to offset some of their neighbours’ increases, showing 22% and 0.3% reductions respectively over the course of the year. Wales introduced a 5p charge for bags in October 2011 while Scotland is currently consulting on the issue and has proposed a minimum 5p charge.