I found this report a real eye-opener. Perhaps you will too. Personally, I live with a bag lady, who always has a dozen cloth bags in the car, so I use neither paper nor plastic. But, this article suggests, even that is not as good as we thought, as you will read. Still we do use the bags over and over, so hopefully it is an improvement. It is a tough problem, but plastic is never an ideal solution in situations such as family groceries and the like.
California Just Banned Free Plastic Bags. Hold the Rejoicing.
KATIE ROSE QUANDT, Senior Online Editorial Fellow – Mother Jones
Last month, California became the first state to pass a bill banning the ubiquitous disposable plastic bag. If signed into law, the measure will prohibit grocery and retail stores from providing single-use plastic bags and require them to charge at least 10 cents for paper bags, compostable bags, and reusable plastic bags. The bill, introduced by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Los Angeles), will also provide funding for California-based plastic bag companies to develop sturdier, reusable options.
Worldwide, consumers use an estimated 1 trillion plastic bags each year-nearly 2 million a minute-with the use time of a typical bag just 12 minutes. Californians alone throw away 14 billion a year, creating 123,000 tons of waste and untold amounts of litter.
There is evidence that bag bans and taxes can cut down on some of this waste: Ireland's 2002 tax cut bag usage between 75 and 90 percent. An analysis of bag use in Australia found that 72 percent of customers accepted single-use bags that were offered for free. When a nominal fee was charged, usage dropped to 27 percent (33 percent switched to reusable bags and 40 percent made do without).
Phi Beta Iota: Plastic bags do indeed get used for pet waste as well as household waste (liners for individual room trash cans that can then be pulled, tied, and thrown into the larger trash bin). There are three solutions in order of ease: recycling (melt and recreate as with aluminum cans); convert into fule (existing technology not widely used); and design biodegradabale bags (adapt existing technology).