Reusable bags are becoming the cost saving option as plastic bags become demonized.
According to a report by the Huffington Post, Seattle is looking to become the next city to ban single use plastic bags from grocery & retail stores. Seattle alone uses 292 million plastic bags per year out of the estimated 380 billion used across the U.S., adding to landfill waste and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Other cities are also considering the ban, such as Eugene, Corvallis, Newport and Ashland in Oregon, while D.C. implemented a 5 cent fee per plastic bag. The U.S. has an odd ally in this environmental challenge, China banned single use plastic bags in 2008, saving over 1.6 million barrels of oil and reducing the plastic bag usage by 66%.
Opponents of bans such as these, point to economic impacts, such as lost jobs from the workers that produce the plastic bags and the increased costs of potential fees to sustain the government levies. There are also concerns that paper bag production produces about 70% more pollution than plastic bags, when considering greenhouse gases, waste production and water pollution. This fact is usually not discussed at length and should be considered by all when evaluating the issue.
However the solution is not necessarily paper or plastic, reusable bags are a much more environmentally friendly choice. Reusable shopping bags often last for years and can be obtained for about $1 each or in some cases free. Considering the 5 cent fee D.C. charges, reusable bags are a cost saver to both the stores and consumers. Common sense also tells us that you will not remember or have access to your reusable bags at all times, thus biodegradable plastic bags could be an option. Levying a small fee against the use of plastic bags could also curb demand, forcing habits to greener solutions. The sustainable lifestyle would call for you to BYOB (bring your own bags) and use them over a multi-year period, this is the clear third choice when discussing paper vs. plastic.