In a week where the focus is caring for the environment, Christian Aid's Count Your Blessings Lent calendar highlights plastic bag use and suggests you give 50p if you have accepted a plastic bag in a shop this week.
I was about to say I haven't. I use jute bags or heavy-weight reuseable plastic bags. Then I remembered the several single-use plastic bags I'd used for fruit and vegetables in the supermarket. So my total today should probably be £2.50.
According to Green England a trillion plastic bags each year are used world-wide of which the UK uses 10 billion. Most are only used once and some take as much as 1,000 years to degrade into a plastic dust which can continue to contaminate. Plastic bag litter has a devastating effect on wild-life.
It does seem this is a complex issue. If re-cycling is done responsibly, it's not a simple matter of plastic bags = bad, paper and fabric bags = good. For example paper and cotton bags use more energy resources in production than a single-use plastic bag. According to a UK Government Environment Agency report whatever type of bag is used the key to reducing environmental impact is to re-use each bag as many times as possible. This table from that report shows the number of times each type of bag would need to be re-used to ensure they have lower global warming potential than HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) bags that are not re-used.
Image: Plastiktueten from Wikipedia