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UK's shopkeepers welcome moves to extend 5p plastic bag levy

Plastic bag use has fallen 90% since the 5p levy was introduced (Getty Images)

Britain’s army of small shopkeepers have welcomed moves to extend the plastic bag levy to corner shops.

Environment secretary Michael Gove told Cabinet colleagues he was determined to tackle the nation’s “throwaway culture”.

The 5p levy on single-use plastic bags introduced in 2015 to cover major supermarkets and other large stores is now likely to be extended to thousands of smaller shops in towns and on housing estates up and down the country.

MORE: Pret a Manger mulls doubling coffee discount if you bring your own mug

Chris Noice, from the Association of Convenience Stores, welcomed the proposals as being “good for the environment and good for the retailers taking part”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “approval for carrier bag charging is now very high” among the association’s 33,500 members.

He said: “There was a bit of an adjustment period when the initial legislation came in in England. But everyone is pretty comfortable with it now.”

Noice said more than a third of the shops the association represents already charge 5p for a plastic bag anyway.

Images of sea creatures such as this turtle caught up in plastic shown on Blue Planet II had a big impact (BBC)

A consultation will be carried out on the proposal which would see England come into line with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The 5p levy has seen a 90% reduction in the estimated 7.6 billion bags handed over to shoppers before its introduction.

MORE: Tesco bins 5p plastic carrier bags forever – now you’ll have to get a bag for life

David Attenborough’s recent Blue Planet II BBC TV show highlighted through some stark images the spread of plastics and the harm they do to the world’s ocean wildlife.

Prime minister Theresa May is expected to use a speech on Thursday to outline a wider drive to go greener.

Her official spokesman said had a clear belief in “conserving what is good, and standing against the profligate use of resources – whether it be public money or natural resources”.

A law banning the use of microbeads in various products such as skin creams came into force this week (PA Images)

May’s plan would position the government as leading “the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than we inherited”, he added.

A ban on the use of plastic microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products in the UK came into effect on Tuesday.

These beads – found in everything from facial scrubs to toothpaste – take decades to degrade and have found their way into the world’s oceans, swallowed by fish and slowly poisoning them.

And, Michael Gove is also keen to tackle the use of disposable coffee cups and could yet act on the so-called “latte levy” which could see a 25p charge added for drinkers who do not use a reusable cup for their takeaway brews.

Some 2.5bn coffee cups are binned in the UK every year.

Argos on Wednesday revealed a five-fold increase in sales of reusable cups in the past month since the idea was first floated.

MORE: Charging punters for their takeaway coffee cup could cut waste by 300 million a year

And Pret A Manger announced in early January that customers would get a 50p discount on the price of hot drinks if they bring their own cup.

Greenpeace’s John Sauven said: “Theresa May should use her speech to announce that 2018 will be the year when Britain turns the tide on throwaway plastic.

“With millions of people in Britain worrying about plastic pollution, the prime minister has a strong mandate to take the bold action we need.”