The UK government has warned that it could push through legislation that would force retailers to charge for plastic bags.

According to a report in The Daily Telegraph, environment minister Joan Ruddock said: "We hope there will be a voluntary agreement but the Waste Bill is likely to receive Royal Assent in the autumn, which will include mandatory charging for plastic bags."

A spokesperson for the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs told just-food that it is currently considering options on how to cut bag usage.

"We are consulting with retailers on how this can be best achieved. We hope to reach a voluntary agreement that will result in a dramatic decline in the use of single-use plastic bags," the spokesperson said.

Looking at ways to reduce the number of bags used in the UK, Defra pointed to the success experienced by Marks & Spencer, who has cut the number of plastic bags at its food stores by 80% through the introduction of a 5 pence charge.

However, a spokesperson for Sainsbury's told just-food that it did not support the idea of charging for bags.

"We maintain that it is better to offer incentives for consumers to opt for reusable bags," the company said.

Indeed, the UK's multiples have introduced a number of incentives, such as 'green' loyalty schemes to reward consumers who do not use single-use bags.