Plastic bags are a convenience for a couple of minutes and burden on the environment beyond our lifetime.
In the United States alone, an estimated 12 million barrels of oil is used annually to make the plastic bags that Americans consume. The United States International Trade Commission reported that 102 billion plastic bags were used in the U.S. in 2009. These bags, even when properly disposed of, are easily windblown and often wind up in waterways or on the landscape, becoming eyesores and degrading soil and water quality as they break down into toxic bits. Their manufacture, transportation and disposal require large quantities of non-renewable resources and release equally large amounts of global-warming gases.
Governments around the world have taken action to ban or restrict the use of plastic bags. In 2008, China banned the use of ultra-thin plastic bags, and it is estimated to have eliminated 40 billion bags in the first year. Ireland placed a fee on plastic bags and reportedly reduced consumption by 90%.
Towns all over the United States are rising to the challenge and standing up to the oil, gas and plastic industries. San Francisco has banned plastic bags. Seattle has fought a hard fight to place a fee on single-use disposable plastic AND paper bags, only to be shut down by the American Chemistry Council, a group that profits greatly from the production of plastic bags. Recently, Seattle successfully passed an ordinance that would ban plastic bags and place a small charge on paper bags.
The plastic industry and their lobbying groups spend millions annually to combat anti-plastic bag campaigns across the country. In spite of this challenge, U.S. cities including Austin, Boston, New Haven, Phoenix and Annapolis are considering bag bans or fees. In the past year, a number of cities passed plastic bag bans including Aspen and Basalt, CO, Portland, OR, San Jose, CA, and Santa Clara and Marin Counties in CA.
Source: "Bag Politics"