The number of carrier bags being handed out by supermarkets has fallen by 4.6 billion over the last four years.

According to the BRC 43% fewer bags were given out in the year to May 2010 than in 2006 which it said was particularly impressive as sales volumes have risen over 6% in the same period.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “This is a tremendous achievement by supermarkets, customers and staff. The sustained reduction shows that customers are permanently adopting the habit of re-using their bags.

“The continuous decrease in total annual bag use demonstrates the voluntary approach continues to make good progress through individual retailer initiatives that take customers with them.”

He added: “Retailers are working hard on a range of other environmental measures, such as reducing food waste, reducing and redesigning packaging, as well as providing customers with recycling information through the on-pack recycling label.”