Loblaw, Canada's largest retailer, believes it will cut the number of plastic bags it handles by more than half with a scheme to charge consumers per bag.

The company said today (27 November) that it will charge shoppers C$0.05 (US$0.04) a bag from 22 April next year, when Earth Day 2009 is held.

Loblaw believes the move will cut the number of plastic shopping bags it distributes by 55%. Canadian take home 55 plastic bags a week, the retailer said.

"As Canada's largest grocery retailer, we have a history of taking an active role to help reduce waste in our communities," said Loblaw executive chairman Galen Weston.

Loblaw plans to launch the scheme in Toronto in January. On Monday, local authorities in Toronto will decide whether to bring in a similar C$0.05 charge on plastic bags available in all shops.