Are plastic bags that bad?

I grew up near the heart of the silicon valley, where people care and have enough money to make a difference. My hometown of Sunnyvale banned single use plastic bags back in early 2011. At first it seemed silly that the bike shop I worked for was no longer allowed to give out paper bags we had to sell them. It did not take much time of shopping with my mom until I had gotten used to bringing in bags or feeling the shame of having to pay for paper. When I first moved up to chico in early 2013 single use plastic bags were still in use. It took no time to adjust and I hate to admit it but it was really nice to not have to worry about bags and be able to take home as many as I needed. It seemed like a waste to not reuse these bags at least once, so I started trafficking plastic bags back into the bay area for my mom to use to clean up after the dog. I was appalled at the amount of plastic I was bringing back. Even after folding and compressing the bags I was still bringing home multiple bags completely filled with other bags. I could not believe how much one person was able to create. Then in early 2014 Chico passed a ban against plastic bags and made paper bags 10 cents. It took me months before I was consistently remembering bags when grocery shopping which in turn made me hate the new ban.

At this time I started to learn about plastics in school and it turns out that a single use bag actually needs to be used 8 times before it is considered sustainable. Unfortunately there was a lack of education about these single use plastic bags. The material they are made from is created by using the waste gases from the production of petroleum, when a few other chemicals are added it creates a plastic that can be recycled an infinite amount of times. While also being able to be made into multiple different types of products from injection molded water bottles to blown film plastic bags. When compared with paper, plastic bags are better for the environment. They do not add to deforestation, the material is created with gas that was previously vented into the atmosphere, and it uses no bleach. Paper bags are very hard to recycle due to the extra thickness and coating on the inside. I now believe that if there had been more education we could have made these convenient bags work. I never saw anything about how they should be put in the recycle bin and not the trash. The only thing I can remember is safeway had a place to drop them off in front of each store, but even that disappeared quietly at some point.