Shoppers are to face a 5p charge on bags handed out at supermarkets and major stores, Nick Clegg will announce at the Liberal Democrat conference.
The cash raised from the levy, to be introduced in 2015, will be given to environmental charities. The move will bring England into line with Wales and Northern Ireland, where a 5p-a-bag charge is in force since 2011. Wales has seen a 76 per cent fall in plastic bag use since the introduction. A “bag tax” will also come into operation in Scotland next year.
"Nick Clegg had to fight pretty hard in government to deliver this when everything is about the cost of living," a senior Lib Dem source said.
"We believe that a small charge outweighs the environmental damage caused by plastic bags."
The charge will only apply to supermarkets and other large stores, with small corner shops exempted, and the proceeds from the charge will go to charities involved in clearing up the environmental damage caused by the bags rather than the Government or the retailers.
Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said the plastic bag levy would only raise "pretty small amounts" for charity as its intention was to get people to reduce the amount they use.
"The success of this charge will be that it doesn't raise any money," he said. "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."
Additional reporting by Independent staff