Mayor Bloomberg is said to be inspired by other cities such as Seattle and San Francisco that have done their own measures to curb plastic bags, in some cases banning them completely in large grocery stores. This success is not limited only to the municipal level but also to countries around the world like China, Australia and Ireland to name a few. South Africa has also enacted a ban after many have labeled the plastic bag the "national flower" for they are found discarded everywhere.
Plastic bags constitute a large portion of the trash we throw away; with The Worldwatch Institute estimates that Americans alone discard around 100 billion plastic bags per year. That's about 6 or 7 bags per person per week. Many of these bags wind up in the ocean, where they can choke and entangle marine birds and mammals, such as sea turtles, who can not distinguish the plastic bags from jellyfish. Eventually these bags find their way to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a swirling mass of trash twice the size of Texas, where they can take up to 1,000 years to break down.
So next time we hear, "paper or plastic?" say neither and carry your groceries in a cloth tote. The environment and your wallet will thank you.