Retailer Marks and Spencer is to charge food customers 5p for every plastic carrier bag they use, the store chain said today.
The charge is aimed at reducing demand for the bags, which campaigners say damage the environment.
The chain said money raised from the levy would be spent on improving parks and play areas across the country.
Around 13bn plastic bags are given out free to UK shoppers every year and take 1,000 years to decay.
The move follows a trial at 50 stores in Northern Ireland and the South West of England which saw demand for polythene bags fall by more than 70%.
If that figure was replicated across the country, the move could reduce the number of bags used by 280 million each year, chief executive Sir Stuart Rose said.
He said: "We want to make it easy for our customers to do their bit to help the environment and our trials have shown us that they want to take action.
"Just imagine if M&S customers right across the UK cut the number of food bags they use by 70 per cent - that's over 280 million bags they'd be saving every year.
"On top of this, our customers will be raising valuable funds to go to our partner charity, Groundwork, to invest in much-needed green spaces in our neighbourhoods."
Groundwork chief executive Tony Hawkhead said: "We all want our neighbourhoods to be cleaner and greener and our experience shows that when a major household name takes the initiative, it can encourage millions of people to change their behaviour.
"Not only will this scheme reduce the amount of food carrier bags sent to landfill sites but it will also help improve the quality of life in towns and cities across the country."
Marks and Spencer will give all food customers free long-lasting bags from early April for one month. The 5p charge will begin on May 6.
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