Major stores have withheld millions of pounds from the 5p charge on plastic bags instead of giving the money to good causes.
High street chains such as Tesco, WH Smith, Poundland and Halfords deducted a fee from the charge for administration costs.
The 5p charge, which was introduced in England in October 2015, is meant to stop shoppers asking for disposable plastic bags at tills.
High street chains such as Tesco, WH Smith, Poundland and Halfords deducted a fee from the charge for administration costs
Ministers said the money raised from the sale of bags should be donated to charitable groups.
Even though the Government ban allowed retailers to make deductions to cover admin costs, most firms opted to give away the full amount.
This provided a lifeline to hundreds of charities and community groups.
The scheme proved enormously successful in tackling litter and waste by cutting the number of bags handed out by more than 70 per cent.
The introduction of the 5p charge was a victory for the Mail’s Banish The Bags campaign, launched in 2008, which won the backing of MPs from all parties and environmental and anti-litter campaigners.
It went ahead even though all major supermarkets other than Marks & Spencer opposed it. Tesco led the opposition and bosses lobbied the Government to kill it off.
Tesco, which is Britain’s biggest retailer, has kept a large slice of the cash to cover the cost of running its Bags Of Help scheme for good causes.
Figures covering the 12 months to April show Tesco sold just over 637million bags, raising more than £31.8million from the 5p charge.
Some £5.3million was handed to the Treasury as VAT, and the firm took £3.4million for administration costs, leaving £23.14million for good causes.
But Tesco donated more to good causes than the other supermarkets put together.
The 5p charge, which was introduced in England in October 2015, is meant to stop shoppers asking for disposable plastic bags at tills
The figure was £8.2million for Morrisons, £6.9million for Asda, and £2.1million for Sainsbury’s, which sells far fewer 5p carriers because it encourages customers to buy its durable ‘bags for life’.
The only other major retailers to take a slice of the money were WH Smith, Poundland, Wilko, HMV, One Stop, Halfords and parts of the Co-op.
Tesco’s bag donations scheme is administered by the charity Groundwork. A decision on which groups get the money is based on a vote by customers at each store.
But rivals have questioned why Tesco and Groundwork needed more than £3million to run the scheme.
Morrisons said all the money from its bag sales went into the Morrison Foundation – its charity. It said running costs were just £60,000 a year.
A Tesco spokesman said: ‘Our Bags Of Help scheme ensures customers get a say in how money they spend on bags is spent in their community. A small proportion of the money raised is used to run and administer the scheme.’
Louise Edge, from Greenpeace UK, said: ‘Most people expect retailers to give the proceeds to good causes. So it’s a cheap move from Tesco to pocket some of the cash.’