I somehow have collected an obscene number of reusable grocery bags. These are in addition to a couple of Whole Foods and Trader Joe's paper-handled bags that I keep on the side. How did this happen?
I originally got on the reusable grocery bags bandwagon around 2007, during a trip to Italy. In Italy, like many other countries, customers are charged to purchase a plastic bag along with their groceries. You pick up bags usually near the cashier conveyor belt, and place it on top of your purchases. They're only worth a few cents, but you have to pay.
I began researching bags that fold up and get stored into self-made pockets--a small obsession of mine since childhood, just like windcheaters that could be folded up neatly and stored in their own, self-made little pocket.
The first brand I came across on the Interwebs was Envirosax. Great but pricy, at just under $10 each or $20-something for a set (plus tax and S&H). My first Envirosax bag was a bright yellow one, which I ended up leaving with my grandmother because she liked it so much. I guess both my grandma and I love yellow? :o) By my next trip over, I had bought a set of Envirosax. This is just an example, there are tons of manufacturers out there. I have at least two of Trader Joe's canvas bags, one Whole Foods recycled plastic bottle bag, a cheap white Fiat 500 bag, and many other models and styles in-between.
Since 2008, I have seen an explosion of reusable grocery/shopping bags. Companies give them away, shops sell them, consumers gobble them up. They're particularly handy for Farmers Markets. In essence, there's a slight Europe-ization of American lifestyle that's led to the demand in the market for reusable shopping bags.
I believe L.A., San Francisco, and Seattle are among the first cities to have implemented plastic bag bans. The state I live in, Illinois, attempted to pass a rule on plastic bag recycling, but it was turned down. HowStuffWorks has a great, beginner list of cities, states, and countries that have implemented plastic bag bans.
Do you collect reusable shopping bags? My collection started as an accident, but they've come in handy on numerous occasions, so I appreciate a little stash in the kitchen and in the car.