The government is planning to extend compulsory plastic bag charging to small stores and raise the charge to 10p, according to newspaper reports.

Under the current regulations, a 5p charge is levied on all single use plastic bags sold by businesses in England with more than 250 employees. The plastic bag charge applies to all businesses in Wales and Scotland. 

Since the legislation was first introduced in 2015, many independent retailers (42%) in England have introduced a voluntary charge on plastic bags sold in their stores, according to Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) research.

Chancellor Philip Hammond tweeted that the government was “committed to tackling…the terrible damage done by single use plastic waste”.

“I will be saying more at the Budget about how we can use the tax system to meet this challenge. All options remain open and under active consideration,” he added.

The ACS has welcomed potential proposals to extend the plastic bag charge to small stores but has urged the government to carefully consult on any increases to the levy.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We have long campaigned for compulsory plastic bag charging to be extended to all businesses just as it is in Wales and Scotland. Around half of independent convenience stores in England have voluntarily introduced plastic bag charging, using the funds raised from the charge to support local and environmental causes. Furthermore, most of the independent retailers that do not currently charge for plastic bags support the introduction of a universal charge.

“The level of the charge should balance discouraging the use of single use plastic bags whilst avoiding unreasonable costs for consumers who may forget reusable bags or make unplanned shopping trips. We will work with the government to help make any extension of plastic bag charging effective and workable.”