Remember a few years ago, when lots of places decided to ban plastic bags? Remember how we all stopped using them? Yeah, me neither.

Far from reducing the consumption of polymers and the associated pollution, prohibiting single-use shopping sacks may well be increasing both problems. Usage of plastic for grocery bags in the U.S. state of New Jersey increased threefold after a 2022 ban, according to a study earlier this month by Freedonia, a market research company, pushing the emissions used in manufacturing them up about 41%.

Anyone who has been at a post-ban checkout can work out the reason. Old-style disposable shopping bags, typically made from thin films of polyethylene, have indeed disappeared from many stores in recent years. In their place, however, we’re now paying cents and dollars for reusable carriers made from thicker, glossy polyethylene, waffle-like non-woven polypropylene, brown paper or natural fibers such as cotton and jute.