THE cost of single-use plastic carrier bags will double later this month.

And all shops in England from the largest supermarket to the smallest corner shop will be obliged to impose the 10p charge from Friday, May 21.

Since the 5p plastic bag tax was introduced in England on October 5, 2015, there has been a massive reduction in the number of bags being used in the country.

The levy, which until now has only applied to retailers employing more than 250 staff, saw the average customer cutting the annual number of plastic bags they took their shopping home in from 140 to four.

Including all shops will drastically cut the estimated 3.4billion single use carrier bags issued free by smaller retailers.

It is estimated this month's price increase will result in people using an average of less than one bag a year.

The 5p increase has been welcomed by the Federation of Independent Retailers national president Stuart Reddish.

He said he was delighted that while larger businesses will have to keep records of how many single use bags they sell, smaller concerns will be exempt.

Mr Reddish added: "We have lobbied hard to get this charge extended to all stores in England.

"At the same time, we have always pressed Defra to ensure that the new regulations do not impact negatively on our membership by burdening them with unnecessary paperwork.

"We were, therefore, pleased when it advised that smaller retailers are not required to keep detailed records of sales when the extension comes in.

"Plastic blights our land and seas and chokes wildlife, but since the charge first came into being, sales of single-use plastic bags have dropped dramatically.

"Independent newsagents and convenience stores are at the heart of their communities and this charge will allow us to give back by reducing waste still further and donating some of the proceeds to deserving causes."

Greenpeace has long campaigned for measures to cut plastic pollution, which particularly impacts on our oceans.

The charity's senior plastics campaigner Nina Schrank - who says a truckload of plastic enters our oceans every minute - is encouraged by the single-use bag price hike, but believes more needs to be done.

She said: "Plastic carrier bag sales are falling year on year and putting the price back to 10p should further discourage their use.

"But the UK uses more than a billion and a half heavy-duty 'bags for life' a year, so to make sure the gains made on carrier bags aren't lost, we also need to phase out bags for life."

Countryside charity CPRE - previously known as the Campaign to Protect Rural England - is calling for an all out "war on plastic" and other "throwaway items".

Deputy chief executive Tom Fyans, said: "Government should bring in charges on all single-use, throwaway items - from takeaway cups to wooden forks.

"Incentivising re-use systems and finally committing to an all-in deposit return scheme for drinks containers are the only ways the government can achieve a litter-free countryside and win the war on waste."

The environment - and as a consequence us and all other life forms - isn't the only beneficiary of reducing single-use bags.

Retailers are expected to donate the profits they make from the plastic bag tax to good causes, although it is not compulsory.

An estimated £50million is donated each year, although some retailers have chosen to keep the money.

Environment Secretary George Eustace has previously claimed the UK is "a world leader in the global effort".

He has described the original 5p charge as "a tremendous success" and the increase to 10p should be viewed alongside other measures such as the ban on plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds in England.

A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesperson said: "To take billions more bags out of circulationo and step up our war on plastic pollution, we will go further by increasing the minimum charge to 10p and extending it to all retailers this spring.

"Our landmark Environment Bill will give us powers to take further action to protect our ecosystems from plastic and break our plastic habit for good."

England was the last of the four home nations to introduce a plastic bag tax.

Wales led the way in 2011, followed by Northern Ireland two years later and Scotland in 2014, the year before it became law in England.