Shoppers in Scotland use a “staggering” 750 million disposable carrier bags a year, according to the environment secretary.
Richard Lochhead said the figure – which equates to 12 bags a month per person – showed why decisive action was needed to tackle the issue.
The Scottish Government has already announced plans to bring in a new policy, with shoppers to be charged 5p for single-use bags from October next year.
The proceeds from this will go to charity, with good causes expected to receive up to £5 million a year thanks to the new scheme.
Figures from the organisation Wrap (Waste and Resource Action Programme), which aims to reduce waste, showed supermarket shoppers in Scotland used 750 million thin gauge carrier bags in 2012 – up from 740 million the previous year.
Across the UK, 8.1 billion single-use bags were used in 2012.
Mr Lochhead said: “Discarded carrier bags highlight our throwaway society.
“Thousands of Scottish people already use bags for life but it’s disappointing to see that shoppers are continuing to use a staggering 750 million carrier bags each year – that’s 12 bags each per month.
“It’s clear that we need decisive action and that’s exactly what our new measures will do.
“By introducing a modest charge we can help to cut the number of bags which are often seen littering our streets, beaches and countryside.”
He continued: “We have seen elsewhere that carrier-bag charging has been effective in encouraging people to reuse bags.
“The charge in Scotland will not be a tax but will see retailers donating the proceeds to charity – and we could see up to £5m per year going to good causes. I look forward to working with retailers to implement our proposed system.”
Lang Banks, director of environmental campaign group WWF Scotland, said the figures on the number of plastic bags used were “pretty shocking and underline the reason why Scotland is right to introduce a charge for plastic bags”.
He added: “Single-use carrier bags are symbolic of our wasteful attitude to resource use which must be addressed if Scotland’s vision of a zero waste future is to be realised.
“The millions of carrier bags used every year squander non-renewable resources, pollute our environment, threaten wildlife and take decades to break down in landfills.
“Charging for plastic bags has been highly successful in changing behaviour and cutting use elsewhere.
“Green taxes can have a significant role to play in helping to change behaviour well beyond plastic bags.
“As Scotland moves forward to deliver a low carbon future a greater role for regulation rather than voluntary action will be required.”