All shops in Spain will be required by law to charge a minimum of five cents for plastic carrier bags – and in some cases, could end up applying prices of up to 30 cents.

The environment ministry led by Isabel García Tejerina says free plastic bags will be banned from January 1 next year in an attempt to cut their use, in line with the European Directive of 2015 which all member States are obliged to apply progressively.

Bags of less than 50 micrograms in density, or the lightweight, easily-breakable supermarket kind, cause the greatest levels of pollution, including the water supply, although all sizes of carrier bag will attract a cost.

Spain has chosen to apply the EU rule ahead of its deadline of New Year’s Eve on 2018.

Member States may choose not to charge for bags, but to limit their use to 90 per person per year by 2020 and 40 by 2026, although most EU countries have opted for applying a cost.

In Spain alone in the year 2014 – the most recent for which figures are available – a total of 4.7 tonnes of plastic bags of the denser, more resistant type were manufactured – around 158 million of them – showing consumers are tending to opt for stronger and larger carrier bags if they have to pay.