Large stores and supermarkets will begin charging consumers 5p per shopping bag from 2015, as the government looks to reduce the environmental waste caused by plastic bags.
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg unveiled the plans, which have received coalition backing, at the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow this weekend.
The charge, which will only apply to supermarkets and larger stores, will begin in England after the 2015 election, with the proceeds going to charities. Retailers in Scotland will start charging for bags in October 2014.
A similar charge applying to the single-use carrier bags made from both plastic and paper is already in effect in Wales and Northern Ireland.
According to Liberal Democrat sources, the charge in Wales, which began in 2011, has seen the use of plastic bags drop by roughly 75%.
Liberal Democrat Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey told BBC Breakfast the charge would only raise “pretty small amounts” for charity, as its intention was to get people to reduce the amount they use.
“We are very clear that none of this money will come to government, we are not trying to tax people, we are trying to change people’s behaviour, encourage much more environmentally-friendly behaviour.”
But Matthew Sinclair, from the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said the charge was an unnecessary measure that would have little impact on overall waste.
“I don’t think that for every problem the answer is a new tax,” he added.