Marks & Spencer will begin charging customers for carrier bags today (6 May) in a bid to decrease use of plastic bags across its stores.

Shoppers will be charged 5p (US$0.10) per single-use bag at its food stores.

“We hope that this will encourage people to turn to reusable bags,” a spokesperson for the company told just-food. “Customers can also return carrier bags to our stores for recycling.”

The retailer has said that it believes the move will help it reduce the number of single-use carrier bags used by M&S shoppers by as much as 280m each year.

In preparation for its switch from free carrier bags, M&S said it has given out more than 15m free reusable bags.

While other UK retailers have also been keen to reduce the use of carrier bags at their stores, most have opted for incentive-based schemes to encourage consumers to use reusable bags.

M&S is among the first of the UK’s supermarkets to introduce penalties for those who use single-use bags.