The environment minister said 250m carrier bags were used annually in Northern Ireland, on 14 January 2013.
Alex Attwood was speaking on regulations relating to charges for single use carrier bags.
The Single Use Carrier Bags Act (Northern Ireland) was passed by the Assembly in 2011.
It followed a decision by the Executive to introduce a charge for single use carrier bags in Northern Ireland.
The changes are expected to come into effect in two phases. The first would see a 5p levy on single use carrier bags introduced by 8 April 2013.
The second stage would see an increase in the levy to 10p per bag from April 2014 and see the charge extended to include low cost reusable bags
Mr Attwood said he wanted to eliminate the "unnecessary use of bags, regardless of the material of which they are made".
"I believe that the introduction of charging will encourage a move away from the 'throwaway' society and improve waste management by focussing on reduced waste generation and reuse," he said.
TUV leader Jim Allister said the expectation was to reduce the number of bags used to 50m per year although he said he struggled to understand the "rhyme and reason of much of these regulations".
He raised concerns over how much it would cost retailers to administer and what it would cost those who provided jobs in bag production.
The second part of the debate can be viewed
The Planning Bill also passed it first stage.