I've heard that both paper and plastic shopping bags are pretty dreadful for the environment—the former because they require so many trees, the latter because they suffocate animals and last for centuries. I remember a lot of talk in the late 1990s about biodegradable bags composed of vegetable matter—whatever happened to those?
There's been a torrent of information and opinion recently about how you should transport your groceries. To us it seems pretty clear: reusable canvas bags are best for minimizing waste and pollution. But if you forget your canvas tote (and we sometimes-to-most-of-the-time do), you're stuck choosing between paper and plastic.
An essay at Slate touts biodegradable, corn-based bioplastic bags as a better alternative. They require a lot less fossil fuel to make, and wouldn't fill up our oceans. But Slate concludes that, because bioplastic bags cost about $.05 more than paper or plastic, "the bottom line...is that they're not going to show up in mainstream supermarkets until prices come down significantly." Yeah, but that's only a problem if the grocery stores have to foot that bill. What about giving people the option of bioplastic at checkout for an extra $1? Grocery stores in eco-conscious cities might be able to make money on that.