Nearly two billion 5p plastic bags were sold in the last financial year, figures from the government show.
This is a stark reduction from 2014, when 7.6 billion carrier bags – the equivalent of 140 per person – were handed out solely by England’s seven largest supermarkets.
Figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) show the same seven retailers – Asda, Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury, Tesco, The Co-operative Group, Waitrose and Morrisons – sold 1.04 billion bags in 2017/18, nearly 60% of the 1.75 billion in England.
The 5p levy was introduced in England from October 5, 2015 and all large retailers have been required to introduce the charge. Similar schemes run in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The fee is due to rise to 10p and include smaller retailers from January 2020, environment secretary Michael Gove has said.
Retailers are expected to donate any proceeds from the 5p charge to good causes and 153 companies reported donations of £51.6 million in 2017/18, the figures said.
Of this, £20.5 million went to causes local to the businesses, £20.4 million to charities or voluntary organisations, while £2.9 million went to support environmental issues.
Companies are not obliged to donate money raised through the levy, with now collapsed retailer Poundworld retaining £454,397 – with the company reporting it was “still finalising its charity strategy for the current year and the use of the carrier bag levy funds”.
Others who chose to retain the money included registered charities, such as the Salvation Army, St Peter’s Hospice and Cats Protection.