This is the equivalent to the weight of roughly 300 blue whales, 300,000 sea turtles or three million pelicans.
The charge has also resulted in donations of more than £29 million from retailers towards good causes including charities and community groups.
Among the charity's fundraising strategies is to get more garden centres to donate their bag tax to build children's hospice gardens.
Around eight million tonnes of plastic makes its way into oceans each year, posing a serious threat to our natural and marine environment – experts estimate that plastic is ingested by 31 species of marine mammals and over 100 species of sea birds.
Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said: "Taking six billion plastic bags out of circulation is fantastic news for all of us – it will mean our precious marine life is safer, our communities are cleaner and future generations won’t be saddled with mountains of plastic sat taking hundreds of years to breakdown in landfill sites. The 5p charge has clearly been a huge success – not only for our environment but for good causes across the country that have benefitted from an impressive £29 million raised. It shows small actions can make the biggest difference, but we must not be complacent as there is always more we can all do to reduce waste and recycle what we use"
Over seven billion carrier bags were issued by seven main retailers in 2014, falling to just over half a billion in the first six months of the 5p charge for single use carrier bags introduced in October 2015.
Dr Sue Kinsey, Technical Specialist, Waste at the Marine Conservation Society said: "We are delighted to see that the bag charge in England is showing positive results. This is a significant reduction that will benefit the environment as a whole, and our sea life in particular. There is always more that we can do and we encourage everyone to join in on our Great British Beach Clean this September to help keep our coastlines clean."
From 5 October 2015, large shops in England were required to charge 5p for all single-use plastic carrier bags. They are required to report certain information to Defra, and they provide other information on a voluntary basis.
This publication summarises the data reported to Defra for the first reporting period, the half year from 5 October 2015 to 6 April 2016.
In England over this six month period:
- 1.1 billion single-use carrier bags were sold by large retailers who registered and reported data (this figure may also include some reusable carrier bags)
- around 0.6 billion single-use carrier bags (61 percent of the total) were issued by seven main retailers (Asda, Marks and Spencer’s, Sainsbury, Tesco, The Co-operative group, Waitrose and WM Morrison)
- WRAP have previously reported data for these 7 main retailers which showed that, during the full 2014 calendar year, they issued 7.6 billion single-use carrier bags
- the gross proceeds from the levy were £52.8 million, while the net proceeds after taking into account VAT and any costs amounted to £41.3 million
- more than two-thirds of retailers voluntarily provided additional information on the amount donated and the type of good causes for the donations
- at least £29.2 million was donated to good causes – environment, education, health, arts, charity or voluntary organisations, heritage and sports as well as local causes chosen by customers or staff