The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has renewed its call for small English businesses to be included in October’s carrier bag charging scheme after new figures showed a jump in usage.

Data published today by WRAP shows that 8.5bn single-use bags were used in 2014 by UK supermarket customers - an overall increase of 2.3%.

Single-use carrier bag usage in England rose by 200m in the last year.

From October this year, all businesses that employ 250 or more staff will have to charge customers a minimum of 5p for each single-use carrier bag.

Including small businesses in the charge would prevent consumer and retail confusion over which shops do and don’t charge for carrier bags the ACS said.

Chief executive James Lowman added: “We think charging is most effective and fairer when introduced for all retailers, so we were disappointed that the government decided to introduce a small business exemption from compulsory charging.

“Independent retailers who are exempt from the charge may be reluctant to introduce a charge unilaterally because they can see it putting them at a disadvantage with local competitors. Currently 22% of independent retailers charge for carrier bags.”

Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have already implemented mandatory carrier bag charges for all sized businesses which has been successful in reducing the number of carrier bags given out by retailers.

Since implementation,  Northern Ireland has seen a 42.6% decrease, and Scotland, who introduced the charges last Autumn, has already seen an 18.3% decrease.

Wales’ single-use carrier bag usage has also seen a long-term decrease of 78.2%, however, usage actually increased by 5.2% between 2013 and 2014.

Lowman continued: “The decline in carrier bag usage in Scotland, and the long-term reductions seen in Wales, show that carrier bag charging can be highly effective. As well as benefiting the environment, carrier bag charging saves retailers costs and generates funds for local good causes.”