Legislation that bans supermarkets from giving out free plastic bags to their customers has finally kicked in in England. Gone are the days of plastic bags bonanza: from today, shoppers will have to pay 5p for each thin-gauge supermarket plastic bag they require.

Some 8.5 billion single-use bags plus some 500,000 reusable were used in 2014 by customers in UK supermarkets, weighing a total of 68,600 tonnes.

In England alone, 19 million single-use plastic bags are given out daily.

Similar legislation already in place in Ireland and Denmark, with France also following suit, has shown to have greatly reduced plastic bags use almost overnight.

The new measure, a welcome step according to environmentalists, applies however only to supermarkets with over 250 employees and does not include other types of bags, such as paper bags. It is therefore deemed to not be going far enough, and to be sending the public mixed messages.

Critics argue that the behaviour change such ban is designed to encourage will be hindered by smaller shops being exempt, with people being able to carry out as normal whenever shopping at these smaller establishments.

While legislation in England may not yet go far enough, it is nonetheless a good step in helping to reduce the amount of plastic blighting our landscapes, choking our wildlife, and finding its way to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch a floating garbage dump twice the size of Texas.

By Annalisa Dorigo

Video used to drum up support for a similar ban in California: