Shoppers will be charged 5p for every plastic carrier bag they use in supermarkets from October 2015, under plans to bring England into line with Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
The government believes the move will cut plastic bag use by 76%, and help to reduce litter.
Supermarkets will be expected to give the proceeds to charity under a voluntary code. Smaller businesses will be exempt.
Wales implemented a 5p charge which was imposed on all retailers, regardless of size, in 2011. The number of bags used there fell dramatically too – from 130 per person each year to just 22. Northern Ireland has also introduced a 5p levy and Scotland will do the same next year. In 2011, Prime Minister David Cameron gave big stores an ultimatum, telling them to drastically reduce the number of plastic bags, or be forced to by law.