According to figures from the waste reduction body Wrap, supermarket customers used almost 8bn carrier bags in 2011, a 5.4% rise on the 7.6bn in 2010, with each person using an average of almost 11 a month.
England is the only part of the UK which has no plans for a plastic bag charge, and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Keep Britain Tidy, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and Surfers Against Sewage are calling for one to be brought in.
The organisations say plastic bags end up littering England's streets, countryside and beaches, while in the sea they can entangle or be swallowed by wildlife.
Most plastic takes an estimated 450 to 1,000 years to degrade at sea, but plastic may never fully degrade but simply break down into smaller and smaller pieces – eventually forming plastic dust, the environmental groups said.
And research is looking at whether small particles of plastic may be able to absorb toxins from the sea and then be eaten, with the toxins passed up the food chain to people.
Samantha Harding, CPRE "stop the drop" campaign manager, said bag levies had been shown to work in Wales and in Ireland, where plastic bag use fell by 90% following the introduction of a charge.
"A levy is coming to Northern Ireland and Scotland is already consulting on one. Why must the English countryside be the last to benefit from good environmental policies?" she asked.
Sue Kinsey, litter policy officer for MCS, said: "Single-use bags and plastic bags in particular are a menace to the amazing marine wildlife found in English waters.
"Animals get entangled in them and mistake them for food. This can lead to infections, strangulation, starvation and even death. A levy is a simple, effective way to stop such a pervasive and ubiquitous form of pollution."
'TOILETS GOING TO WASTE' London's public loos are being flushed away. Available by e-mail.
'PLASTIC NOT FANTASTIC' Why plastic bags are bad and what can be done about them. Available free by e-mail.
'KEEP OFF THE GRASS' A report on the loss of London's playing fields. Available free by e-mail.
WHERE HAVE LONDON’S LOCAL SHOPS GONE? A recipe for the revival of strong independent shops. Available free by e-mail
'100 BIZARRE AND UNUSUAL BUSINESSES' Available by e-mail @ £4.
'888 MONEYMAKING IDEAS' All are short reports, ranging from the mundane to the very bizarre. Available in hard copy @ £10 or by e-mail for £5. www.ways2makemoney.co.uk/
'HOW TO SET UP GREEN SECONDHAND SHOPS' Available @ £5.
About the Green Room
We have been described as ‘the most unusual shop in London’ As well as a large selection of books, records, CDs and videos, we stock a wide range of unusual and quirky items including a dinosaur egg, a signed Christmas card from J. Edgar Hoover, a Victorian haemorrhoid extractor, a medal to a Chernobyl firefighter, a Georgian wasp catcher, meteorites and even a special brick produced for the Charles & Di wedding! Prize piece, at the moment is a ‘Tribute Penny’ – a denarius of Tiberius – the coin used in the bible ‘Render unto Caesar……’
Support us by coming and buying, donating stock or even cash or cheque. TO SEE SOME OF OUR BOOKS, GO TO: http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchEntry?vci=5644308 and click 'find a book'
The Green Room is owned by Barnet Green Co-op Ltd, a registered not-for-profit company whose object is to promote and raise funds for environmental causes.
It is situated at 192 Archway Road, London N6 5BB. Shop is normally open seven days per week. 10-6pm and often later.
Directions: 200 yards downhill from Highgate Tube.