All across the country, cities and towns are making it illegal for stores to hand out plastic bags to customers when they make a purchase. That explains the recent phenomenon of reusable shopping bags. After all, if consumers want to get their goods home, they need something to carry them in. But a lot of people remain confused about why authorities are banning plastic bags—especially since Americans have been using them for decades and have come to rely on the convenience.

The fact is, all of the recent evidence points to the fact that plastic shopping bags are horrible for the environment. Want specifics? Here’s a rundown on why reusable shopping bags are a necessary trend that can only have a positive impact on all of our lives.

Plastic Bag Use is Out of Control

According to the Earth Policy Institute, people across the world use more than 1 trillion plastic bags a year. In China alone, 3 billion plastic bags are used every single day. To break down those figures even more, that means that for every minute, 2 million plastic bags are used. The Environmental Protection Agency says that every year, 32 million tons of plastic waste is generated, which is 12.7 percent of all waste. And if you’re like the average American family, you take home 1,500 plastic bags a year, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. And what happens to all of those bags? The Wall Street Journal claims that Americans throw them away. It’s estimated that we throw away 100 billion of those bags each year, which take 12 million barrels of oil to produce.

Where Do All the Plastic Bags Go?

So, we use a lot of bags, and those bags have to go somewhere, don’t they? Unfortunately, they do, and to make matters worse, CNN reports that only .5-3 percent of them are recycled. The rest of them end up in the ocean or landfills. Scientists believe that every square mile of ocean contains about 46,000 pieces of plastic. If the bags sink to the bottom of the ocean floor, the United Nations says they will never degrade. And if they stay on top of the water and degrade? That’s bad too, as the bags don’t biodegrade, but rather photodegrade. That makes the degraded fragments smaller, which means they soak up toxins more easily and contaminate the soil and water, along with the animals that eat them.

It can take between 20 and 500 years for a bag to degrade, depending on its density and where it was discarded. And the EPA says that we’ve tripled the amount of plastic bags that we throw away since 1980, which means that in years to come, they will continue to pile up at an alarming rate.

So, What’s the Answer?

How can we keep plastic bags from further polluting our environment, and killing the marine animals that mistake them for food? You guessed it—reusable shopping bags. Since the bans have been established across the country, manufacturers have stepped up and created some amazing bags that make them even more convenient to use. For example, one supplier of LA POP shopping bags offers small bags that can be carried in a pocket or purse, and resemble fruits and vegetables.

No matter how you look at it, times are changing, and even if your jurisdiction hasn’t yet passed a plastic bag ban, isn’t it time to do what you can to ensure that even more plastic bags don’t pollute our earth?