Smaller shops may soon have to charge 5p for a carrier bag under plans to tackle a "throwaway culture" in a 25-year environment plan being published later this week.

Corner shops and retailers in England with fewer than 250 employees can currently choose not to charge 5p for a plastic bag, but Prime Minister Theresa May and Environment Secretary Michael Gove will set out plans for the levy to cover almost all plastic bags.

May said she wanted the Government to take a stand against the "profligate" use of natural resources as she briefed the cabinet about the plan.

The 5p bag charge in England was introduced in October 2015. Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales introduced the charge between 2011 and 2014.

See Supermarket Shopping Tips for guidance on cutting your food bill.

When does the 5p charge not apply?

The simplest way to avoid the 5p charge at the moment is to bring your own bags to stores when shopping. Of course, it doesn't matter what brand they are.

Aside from this, under the current rules you won't be charged in England for bags that aren't plastic, don't have handles, or which have been used.

You also won't be charged for a plastic bag if it's for any of the following items – but you will be charged if you add other items that aren't on the list below into the same bag.

  • Uncooked fish, meat and poultry
  • Unwrapped food, such as chips, or food in containers likely to leak
  • Loose seeds, bulbs and flowers
  • Items such as potatoes with soil on them, plants and roots (including items such as ginger)
  • Prescription medicines
  • Items bought while travelling, eg, at an airport or on a train
  • Free promotional materials
  • Services such as dry cleaning or shoe repairs
  • Unwrapped blades
Martin Lewis
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Government 'determined to tackle the throwaway culture'

The news regarding the 5p bag charge extension comes just a week after MPs called for a 25p 'latte levy' on disposable coffee cups.

A report by the Environmental Audit Committee released last week said the tax should be used to improve the UK's recycling and reprocessing facilities.

At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Gove said the Government was "determined to tackle the throwaway culture which plastics encapsulate" and its plan would set out details of how to reduce demand for them.

May told the cabinet that the Government had "a clear belief in conserving what is good and standing up against the profligate use of resources, whether that is public money or natural resources", according to her official spokesperson.

At the moment the policy is just at the planning stage and will not necessarily go ahead.

Additional reporting by the Press Association.

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