The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) and National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) have teamed up to encourage small stores to introduce a voluntary plastic bag charge ahead of a proposed blanket levy.

The joint initiative follows the publication of the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, which set out to extend the plastic bag charging scheme to include small retailers.

The governement said it would looking at ’voluntary agreements with industries’ before making the charge compulsory.

The ACS and NFRN is distributing posters and other materials to retailers to help them communicate their charging policy to consumers and offer guidance on how to administer a voluntary charge.

Environment minister Thérèse Coffey said: “I welcome this step by the Association of Convenience Stores and the National Federation of Retail Newsagents.

“As the prime minister said when launching our 25 Year Environment Plan, to help achieve our goal of eliminating all avoidable plastic waste, we will extend the 5p plastic bag charge to all retailers, to further reduce usage, and we’ll be setting out our next steps in due course.”

Fourty two per cent of independent retailers already charge for plastic bags and 65% support the introduction of mandatory plastic bag charging in England, according to the ACS.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “There are thousands of retailers that are already charging for single-use plastic bags on a voluntary basis, and the feedback has been extremely positive. Retailers are able to use the funds raised from plastic bag charging to support local causes, whilst also playing their part in reducing the overall number of plastic bags given out.”

NFRN national president Linda Sood added: “Independent retailers are the cornerstone of their local communities. NFRN members pride themselves on retailing responsibily and want to play a role in ridding their local surroundings of plastic waste. Through the carrier bag levy they recognise they can help protect the environment and raise funds for deserving good causes the length and breadth of the country at the same time.”

The ACS and NFRN will be sending printed material to retailers over the next few weeks. To download the information, visit the ACS website.