The Green Daily blog alerts me that China has leapfrogged the U.S. in an environmental aspect; it has banned stores from giving out plastic bags: http://www.greendaily.com/2008/01/08/plastic-bags-unwelcome-even-in-china/
The familiar t-shirt bag was invented here in South Carolina by a company called Sonoco. They became truly ubiquitous.
I don't have too, too much of a problem with them, since they are supposed to be biodegradable, sorta, but for some reason there always seems to be one in the tree tops. Of course, you have to put trees to the axe to make paper bags, but they seem to be more reusable.