The number of plastic bags given out in UK supermarkets has risen for the fourth year running, to 8.3bn bags a year, official figures show.
The rising consumption comes ahead of a 5p charge in England that will be introduced in 2015 after the general election, and a 5p charge in Scotland due to come into force this autumn.
Retailers in Wales reported reductions in such "single use" bags of up to 96% following the successful implementation of a 5p charge there in 2011 that goes to charities including Keep Wales Tidy and the RSPB.
Data published on Tuesday by the government's waste programme, Wrap, show an increase of 3% between 2012 and 2013. But 8.3bn bags still marks a significant reduction from the more than 12bn used in 2006.
The association that represents most of the big retailers, the British Retail Consortium, described the increase as small and said that the "way we shop, more frequently topping up our shopping to add to our larger weekly shops means more shopping trips and more bags."
The number of bags given away fell for several years in a row after 2006 following a voluntary agreement by retailers to cut their use, media campaigns against plastic bags and a popular movement that saw some towns, such as Modbury in Devon, go plastic bag-free.
The bag charge due to come into force in England next year has been criticised by MPs for an exemption that means small shops will not have to apply the 5p charge.
Alice Ellison, the BRC's environment policy adviser, said: “The reductions in Wales and Northern Ireland indicate that legislation can trigger significant reductions in carrier bag use. However, the proposed regulations in England are unnecessarily complex and offer too many exemptions. As drafted they will not deliver the same environmental impact as the rest of the UK and need the government to accept that the best way is a simple scheme which is consistent and easily understood by everyone."
Jim Griffiths, minister for natural resources in Wales, said: “People in Wales have adapted extremely well to our 5p carrier bag charge which was introduced in October 2011 and supermarkets across Wales are full of people reusing shopping bags. These latest figures show that consumption of carrier bag use in Wales has reduced by 79% since 2010, and this really is an excellent result, however there is no room for complacency."
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