The charge has also resulted in donations of more than £29m from retailers towards good causes, including charities and community groups.
Over seven billion carrier bags were issued by seven main retailers in 2014, falling to just over half a billion in the first six months of the 5p charge for single use carrier bags introduced in October 2015.
England’s levy on single-use plastic bags was introduced in October last year. Retailers that employ 250 or more full-time equivalent employees are required by law to enforce the charges. Small or medium-sized business are not required to charge, but may do so voluntarily.
Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey: “The 5p charge has clearly been a huge success – not only for our environment but for good causes across the country that have benefitted from an impressive £29m raised”
The initiative is aimed at reducing litter, with bags being one of the most highly visible forms of litter on our streets, roads, hedges, parks, trees, beaches and, ultimately, in our oceans, all with potentially devastating effects, according to Keep Britain Tidy.
Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said: “Taking six billion plastic bags out of circulation is fantastic news for all of us – it will mean our precious marine life is safer, our communities are cleaner and future generations won’t be saddled with mountains of plastic sat taking hundreds of years to breakdown in landfill sites.
“The 5p charge has clearly been a huge success – not only for our environment but for good causes across the country that have benefitted from an impressive £29m raised.
“It shows small actions can make the biggest difference, but we must not be complacent as there is always more we can all do to reduce waste and recycle what we use.”
Around eight million tonnes of plastic makes its way into oceans each year, posing a serious threat to our natural and marine environment – experts estimate that plastic is ingested by 31 species of marine mammals and over 100 species of sea birds.
Dr Sue Kinsey, Technical Specialist, Waste at the Marine Conservation Society said: “We are delighted to see that the bag charge in England is showing positive results. This is a significant reduction that will benefit the environment as a whole, and our sea life in particular.
“There is always more that we can do and we encourage everyone to join in on our Great British Beach Clean this September to help keep our coastlines clean.”
In March this year, the bag charge was blamed for Nelson Packaging’s factory going into administration. LDPE plastic bag recyclers, PlasRecycle, has also gone into administration, it was announced recently.
The data has been published, along with guidance for the plastic bag charge.