PM warns stores over plastic bags
David Cameron has threatened to introduce tough new laws forcing retailers to cut the number of plastic bags they issue if they fail to do so voluntarily.
The Prime Minister praised major high street stores for a significant dip overall in the amount of single use bags being handed to shoppers in recent years but branded it "unacceptable" that the number went up in 2010.
He warned stores that they would have to answer to him if they failed to reverse that trend soon.
Mr Cameron said: "I am very concerned about the use of single use carrier bags and the effect that they have on the environment. The number of bags being used had fallen considerably, partly thanks to public pressure, including the (Daily) Mail campaign, and due to the efforts of many major retailers.
"Companies like Marks & Spencer have considerably reduced the use of bags by charging and then donating the money raised to charity - £4m has already gone to good causes since they started charging in 2008 and they are doing more to clean up beaches over the next few years.
"But progress overall went backwards last year. That's unacceptable and we need to do better. I want to see the numbers going in the right direction again.
"I know that retailers want to do better too but if they don't I will be asking them to explain why not.
"They also need to know that the Government has options at its disposal - including legislating as other countries have done. We will continue to look carefully at all options in order to make sure that we further reduce the use of single use plastic bags."
The number of disposable bags used by shoppers has plummeted since 2006 after campaigners raised awareness of the environmental impact they have, including the hazard to wildlife. Last year around 6.8bn were used, up around 5% on the previous year.
Retailers in Wales will have to charge 5p on plastic bags from October 1 after the Welsh Assembly Government agreed a crackdown.