Retailers in England and Scotland may be forced to charge for their single-use plastic bags following an impending EU assessment.

EU environment commissioner Janez Potocnik said that he intended to launch an impact assessment of a Europe-wide ban following the recent success of a ban in Italy. Potocnik said that Brussels would look at the "possibility of a Europe-wide ban given the production of plastic bags has exploded, leading to effects that are all too evident on our environment".

If given the green light a ban would be introduced across all 27 EU member states.

Several EU member states have already introduced levies and have reduced the number of plastic bags handed out as a result. The Republic of Ireland introduced a 15p levy in 2002 that reduced plastic bag use by more than 90%.

From October this year, Wales will introduce a 5p levy that will be given to a charity of the retailer's choice, and the Northern Irish Assembly has recently approved a levy of 15p that is expected to raise £4m a year for the economy.