LOS ANGELES – If proposals by some California (search) lawmakers and environmentalists are ultimately approved, shoppers in the Golden State may soon find it easier to answer the "Paper or Plastic?" question at the register.
That's because proposed regulations would hit plastic bag consumers where it hurts ... in the wallet.
Click on the video box to the right of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Trace Gallagher.
Currently, over 90 billion plastic bags are used every year in the United States. And unfortunately, as many Americans know, a large number of those bags end up as litter, including in the nation's waterways.
Ed Reyes, a member of the Los Angeles City Council (search) is spearheading efforts to clean up the city's waterways. He said this influx of plastic litter "clogs [the waterways] up and makes it harder for the water to go through."
Now Reyes, as well as other lawmakers and activists, would like to see a tax on plastic bags as a way of encouraging buyers to opt for paper.
"We can easily go into a direction where we can put a tax, let's say 18 or 15 cents per plastic bag," Reyes said.
The proposal is not without precedent. In 2002, Ireland levied a tax on plastic bags. Usage declined 90 percent.
But not everyone is enthusiastic about a plastic bag tax. Plastic bags make up a billion-dollar market in the United States, and manufacturers see other options as preferable to a tax.
Larry Johnson of Vanguard Plastics highlights recycling as the best option for controlling the litter that results from poor disposal of plastic products.
"We believe again, with the proper motivation, education and the opportunity for people to recycle the product, that a tax is not necessary," he said.
And plastic manufacturers might not be the only ones opposed to pushing the use of paper over plastic. In the long run, grocers might wince at the cost of paper bags. That's due to the fact that they cost nearly five times as much as their plastic counterparts.