Paper bags are not good for the environment either! Cutting down millions of trees every year is counterproductive to the message of conservation and helping the environment. The best thing you can do as a concerned citizen is buy yourself a 99 cent canvas bag and use that for your shopping. This keeps plastic waste out of the world and helps trees stay intact!
To answer the question about why plastic bags are so popular, though, we have to look at not just the environmental danger of paper bags, but into the minds of consumers and stores. Firstly, plastic bags are often cheaper than paper bags on a cost per pound, cost per bag basis. That’s the big one. Secondly, shoppers may not like it when paper bags get wet (merchandise spills, walking home with your groceries in the rain, etc.), since the bags can fall apart or get your merchandise soggy. These, of course, are not the best ETHICAL reasons at all (using plastic bags is pretty darn environmentally unethical), but short-term customer wants and cost are what stores look at.
Like jenlkinney said, it is best to use reusable bags.
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