It’s not about the bag, it’s about the cultural shift away from single-use plastics. Banning the plastic bag at the grocery store is a first, small step but a giant leap forward for conserving petroleum. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
Petroleum is an amazing substance: versatile, energy dense and precious to our modern way of life. A 42-gallon barrel will be refined to gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other distillates to make various grades of plastics, cosmetics, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals and textiles (to name a few). Oil releases 2.5 times more energy (joules) than wood. It is formed by ancient (fossil) sunlight (fuel) captured by phytoplankton that died and accumulated with sediments, underwent immense pressures, temperatures and tectonic movement. Rare processes to occur precisely in order, thus rare on earth. In 100 years, we have exhausted over half of the attainable reserves globally. We must reduce our use of all-things petroleum for future generations to use.
Reusing materials was once a cornerstone of American life, so say the Depression-era Americans. What happened? Marketing, growth economics and rampant consumerism have led us all to act as if resources are unlimited. Reuse everything you can, including those paper bags you just bought at the store. Buy durable equipment that is made to be reused and repaired.
Recycle. Plastic bags once profusely handed you are recyclable, but was not widely practiced. Most end up in the landfill or become refuse that litter our streets, snag in shrubs, trash the desert and get swept in the waterways (drains, ditches, streams, rivers, ocean). Recycling plastic is energy intensive and results in a lower-grade plastic. Paper bags are also recyclable (also an energy-inefficient process), and the result is paper pulp that can be made into other paper products.