Supermarket carrier bag use increased in the UK last year, despite the Government’s efforts to cut the number of single-use bags issued by retailers.

Carrier bag use jumped 5.4% in 2011 compared to 2010, according to Wrap, the Government body which aims to reduce waste and increase recycling.

Figures showed a 22% fall in Wales, where the Government has imposed a ‘voluntary’ charge to shoppers for each carrier bag they use from a retailer. In England bag use increased 7.5% and in Northern Ireland it surged 8.1%. There was no significant change in Scotland.

But the British Retail Consortium (BRC) highlighted that bag use is still 32% lower compared with the baseline year of 2006, adding that carrier bags are not the great environmental issue some believe they are.

The BRC said the figures showed a change to spending habits as families do smaller grocery shops as opposed to one big trip.

BRC head of environment Bob Gordon said: “It’s no surprise the use of a bag charge in Wales has reduced the number of bags taken by consumers there.

“If other governments see reducing the use of carrier bags as a priority, they will have to take a lead and go beyond voluntary measures. Any legislation should be as similar as possible to what’s in place in Wales and we are already working with other governments as they develop their plans.”