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.

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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.