The trend away from plastic bags has been growing since IKEA because the first major U.S. retailer to stop carrying free plastic bags in March 2007. Stores in a variety of markets have since followed the company’s example by encouraging consumers to bring their own bags, while cities across the nation also have joined in the cause, banning or taxing plastic bags because of their negative environmental impact.
Cities that are considering a ban or have already banned retail availability of disposable plastic bags, or are taxing plastic bags include Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, Dallas, District of Columbia, Baltimore, Detroit, Miami, Seattle, Portland and West Sacramento.
Plastic bag recycling centers and collection sites are now appearing outside retail outlets or are planned in cities including Austin, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas and New York. In addition, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Orlando and San Diego are supporting voluntary programs that encourage use of reusable shopping bags, as well as disposable plastic bag recycling.
What’s wrong with plastic? Americans throw away about 100 billion polyethylene plastic bags, per year and recycle less than 1%. Single-use bags made of high-density polyethylene are the main problem because they will accumulate and remain on our planet for up to a thousand years.
Paper bags are also not the best alternative. Ten pallets of paper bags equals one pallet of plastic, also increasing the CO2 footprint. It takes 14 billion trees to produce 10 billion grocery bags.