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Plastic bags charge set to be extended to small shops in England

The 5p charge for plastic bags is expected to be applied to small shops under government plans to be unveiled by Theresa May this week as she seeks to tackle Britain’s “throwaway culture”.

In a major speech on the environment, the prime minister will promise to hold consultations on removing an exemption that allows retailers with fewer than 250 employees to continue to give out free bags. The levy on supermarkets and other large retailers resulted in a 90% decline in use, with nine billion fewer plastic bags being used.

Such an extension would come alongside other measures to crack down on plastics pollution after Gove said he was “haunted” by images of the damage done to the world’s oceans shown on David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II TV series.

May and Gove briefed cabinet ministers on Tuesday, ahead of the speech that will mark the publication of the government’s 25-year plan, that will include a focus on single-use plastics.

The prime minister “said the government had a clear belief in ‘conserving what is good, and standing against the profligate use of resources – whether it be public money or natural resources’,” according to her official spokesman.

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