The majority of people think a 5p charge on single-use carrier bags should be introduced in England to cut litter and waste, a poll suggested today.
Three-quarters of those quizzed (75%) said they would try to cut down on the use of new plastic bags if there was a 5p charge on them, according to the survey for a coalition of groups pushing the Government to bring in a bag levy in England.
The poll of 1,752 English adults found that 56% agreed a 5p carrier bag charge was not unreasonable even in a time of austerity, as it had been proved to reduce litter and waste, although a quarter disagreed.
The "break the bag habit" coalition of conservation and anti-litter groups wants the Government in England to bring in a charge on plastic bags, which they say end up littering the streets, countryside and beaches or damaging marine wildlife.
The latest figures showed the number of carrier bags being given out by supermarkets rose by more than 5% last year across the UK, the second annual rise in a row, with customers using almost eight billion carrier bags in 2011.
But in Wales, where a 5p charge was introduced last October, the amount of single-use bags being taken home has fallen significantly. Northern Ireland is bringing in a charge next year and Scotland is consulting on doing the same.
England has no plans for a plastic bag charge, but 54% of those questioned in the survey agreed that the country should follow the lead of the other parts of the UK and seek to introduce a 5p levy.
The coalition says the polling results show that, despite concerns among politicians that people would be reluctant to face a charge on bags in difficult economic times, the English public would support such a move.
Samantha Harding, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: "We have known since Ireland introduced bag charging in 2002 that it cuts litter.
"We also know from Wales that retailers stand to make savings both in checkout times and in their overheads.
"And now we know that the English public would support bag charging, even in difficult economic times.
"So why, in the face of hard evidence, public and retailer support is the Government still stalling on an English bag charge?"
She urged David Cameron and George Osborne to ensure that a charge on plastic bags was included in this year's Autumn Statement on the economy.
Helen Bingham, Keep Britain Tidy's campaign manager, said: "This research shows that the public are ahead of the Government when it comes to supporting things that are good for the environment.
"It is time for politicians in Westminster to follow the lead of the Welsh Assembly and introduce a charge that will help reduce the amount of litter blighting our streets, parks and beaches."
A spokesman for the Environment Department said: "We want to work with retailers to help them lift their game to cut the number of bags they hand out.
"We are monitoring the results of the charging scheme in Wales and the outcome of the Scottish consultation on a charge."