"Paper of Plastic?" was a question that was frequently asked in past decades, but is rarely seen today. Plastic bags have proven themselves the true victor of the convenience war, and have taken at least 80 percent of use from paper bags, despite only being introduced in the 1970s. There are several factors for this; plastic bags are extremely cheap and easy to produce, and were seen originally as the ecologically friendly alternative to paper bags. Plastic bags typically cost one-forth that of a paper bag, and consume less space in storage.
The strong success of the plastic bag has caused consequences that have yet to be fully foreseen, but look to be extremely harmful already. Plastic bags are found in abundance in the ocean, where they both kill wildlife as well as ferry foreign species to ecosystems unready for them. Plastic bags need sunlight to degrade, so in shaded areas such as forests they'll remain as little for up to 1,000 years.
Without outlawing these bags, how could their overabundance be strongly discouraged? Several governments worldwide have come up with a solution in the form of a tax on individual plastic bags. Plastic bags are taxed 20 U.S. cents per bag in Ireland, which has resulted in their use being cut 95%. Such a strong change is remarkable, and the resulting tax income can be used for clean-up efforts. Los Angeles has made a similar tax with comparable results, proving that it can be done in the United States.
If you'd like to see a reasonable solution to this underrated environmental problem, switch to reusable bags, and please contact your Congressperson with support of a plastic bag tax.
Source: National Geographic.