Paper manufacturing is a gigantic industry. While the popular warring of paper vs. plastic bags continues it's probably more enlightening to take a step back and look at the big picture. How big of a percentage do paper bags hold in the paper industry? If you rack your brain of all the paper products you can think of I'm sure you'll hit some big ones. For example, what about paper cups? Huge businesses like Starbucks use millions of paper cups around the world, all of which are manufactured in a factory using paper. Below is a link to a website that outlines the impact of paper manufacturing on our enviroment. They illustrate the paper-making process and the energy, wood, water, and gas emissions of production.
International Paper is one of the world's largest, leading paper manufacturers. I was researching the enviromental costs of paper bag manufacturing when I came across their extensive product list. There were over 50 different categories of paper products from food packaging and cups and lids, to office paper and cosmetics. There was, of course, also paper bags listed but it seemed to be a fraction of the business they offer and a fraction of the products they produce.
While International Paper does have a huge impact on the enviroment they are also moving their company in huge ways to be enviromentally concious and responcible. Like other large companies in this kind of industry they have a large section of their website dedicated to informing their customers and clients about the many steps they are taking to lessen the negative impact they have on the enviroment.