Without a charge on paper bags, plastic carryout bag bans result in massive uptake of paper bags and only modest increases in reusable bag use. For example, following the single-use plastic bag ban in the City of Laurel, the share of grocery shoppers using paper bags rose from less than 1% to 68%, while the share using reusable bags rose from 5% to only 14%, and no bag from 7% to 14%.
The manufacture of paper bags has serious upstream environmental impacts and they are far more expensive than single-use plastic bags. Providing them free of charge at checkout in such large numbers may increase retailer overhead, which may result in higher prices.
On the other hand, if the retailers charge shoppers the cost of a paper bag (just as they do for other merchandise), overhead may not be affected. Some store chains, like Aldi, Lidl, Wegmans, and MOM’s, have already abandoned plastic carryout bags and charge from 5¢ to 25¢ for paper bags to offset their costs and discourage their use.