The government has announced proposals to extend the single use plastic bag charge to all retailers by 2020.

It is also consulting on doubling the 5p charge to 10p in order to “accelerate behaviour change and build on the success of the existing charge,” according to environment secretary Michael Gove.

Currently, the 5p charge applies only to businesses employing more than 250 people, but it is estimated over 3.6 billion single-use plastic bags are supplied annually by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) estimates.

Welcoming the proposals, Association of Convenience Stores chief executive, James Lowman, said: “This has been shown to be highly effective at reducing waste, whilst also raising money for local, national and environmental charities. Around half of small shops in England already charge for plastic bags voluntarily, with wider support for a mandatory charge.

“We will continue to work with the government as they develop this policy, including looking closely at the right level of charge to balance deterring unnecessary use of carrier bags, and ensuring that consumers don’t feel they are having to pay too much if they forget their own bags or are making unplanned shopping trips.

“We also need to look carefully at the reporting requirements for small businesses, where the system in place in Wales is proportionate and does not impose new bureaucratic requirements on small retailers.”

The consultation is available here