Starting on Jan. 1, Oregon retail stores and restaurants can no longer provide single-use plastic checkout bags. They may offer paper bags, but must charge customers at least 5 cents per bag. And those bags must contain 40% or more post-consumer recycled fiber. Grocery stores may also provide reusable plastic bags (4 mils thick) or reusable fabric bags. Restaurants may still provide paper bags at no cost.
The concern about plastic bags, especially in the marine environment, is global. Countries banning them include India, Australia, Morocco, France, and Italy. Countries where regulations on their use and disposal, including taxes on their use, include Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Pakistan, China and Japan. In the U.S. California, Oregon and Hawaii have banned use of the bags. Washington and New York are considering similar legislation. More than 200 individual cities have also banned the bags, including Anchorage, Wasilla, and Palmer Alaska, Boulder, Co, Coral Gables, Fla., Boston, Ma., Hoboken, N.J., Santa Fe, NM, and Laredo, TX. Many cities also tax paper bags heavily.
But not everyone hates plastic. Idaho, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and Iowa are among the states that have laws protecting plastic bags against any ban.
The bags break down into micro plastics which are capable of attracting and holding toxins that include persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and toxic organic compounds such as DDT, dioxins, and PCBs. These may be consumed by fish, including salmon, that otherwise enter our food chain. Toxins held on these plastic particles may also leach into groundwater. In the U.S. according to the EPA, we use over 380 billion plastic bags and wraps yearly, requiring 12 million barrels of oil to create. Globally, about a trillion of these bags are manufactured, used once, and then discarded.
The EPA statement about plastic pollution, and especially thin micro plastics is:
"There is a growing concern about the hazards from plastic pollution in the marine environment. Plastics pose both physical (e.g., entanglement, gastrointestinal blockage, reef destruction) and chemical threats (e.g., bio-accumulation of the chemical ingredients of plastic or toxic chemicals attracted to , and then held on the surfaces of plastics) to wildlife and the marine ecosystem. Although plastics in the remote gyre accumulation areas of the oceans (like the "Pacific garbage patch") garner the most media attention, they are not the only water bodies polluted by plastics. Plastic trash and particles are now found in most marine and terrestrial habitats, including the deep sea, Great Lakes, coral reefs, beaches, rivers, and estuaries."