IT HAS been long in the discussion, but the time of the free plastic bag is drawing to a close.

From Monday all large retailers in England will have to charge customers 5p for a plastic carrier bag.

The cost is not huge, but it will, it is hoped, encourage more of us to either make do with fewer bags or invest in so-called bags for life.

The aim is not to earn revenue, but bring to end what has become a curse of modern times.

The figures are staggering. Each year in the UK alone some eight billion plastic bags are given away by retailers to shoppers. That amounts to 130 carrier bags for each person in the UK in a single year.

With most bags ending up in land fill or, worse, discarded or washed out to sea, this is a disaster that is not even waiting to happen, it has happened.

In other nations, notably the US, carrier bags are not as common and more carrier bags are used than in Britain. A lesson we might learn?

The new regulations do not allow for the charge to be waived if the carrier bags are bio-degradable, something that law-makers say may change in the future.

In the meantime although a 5p charge will not hurt in the pocket too much, the price hike to the average supermarket spend may be just enough to prompt us all to keep a bag-for-life in the car boot.