When I was a child, all I remembered at the groceries was paper bags. I don’t know when it changed, but at some point, those lightweight, thin plastic bags that we now see much more commonly than paper took over. I like them because they’re light, I can reuse the for bagging my garbage, and they’re never in short supply. Environmentalists don’t like them precisely because of the fact that they’re never in short supply.
Plastic bags are cheap, easy to use, and horrible for the environment. They’re not biodegradable, they have a tendency to be one of the more annoying forms of refuse, and they’re losing ground across the globe because of the harmful environmental impact they have. A number of countries, including China, Italy and South Africa have banned them outright, and that trend looks set to continue. Ireland, more uniquely, has imposed a tax on them, at first leveled in at €.15, and that tax was gradually raised to €.22. The amount of plastic bags that were littered declined 95% thereafter.
I’m not a fan of ‘banning’ things outright, I’m a much bigger fan of putting fees or charges on them (I am a Democrat after all). But it has more to do with letting people make their own choices, and just fixing the cost of those choices into the final product rather than letting the ‘market’ take care of it. Plastic bags are likely to go to the way of Bear Stearns, VHS and the modern Republican party, that is, increasingly rare, and very out of date.