Plastic_bags Several U.S. cities in recent years have been talking about banning the use of flimsy plastic shopping bags -- or imposing fees on them to discourage use.

But according to a story in the New York Times, it's a lot of talk but not a lot of action:

Regarded by some as a symbol of consumer culture wastefulness, plastic bags have been blamed for street litter, ocean pollution and carbon emissions produced by manufacturing and shipping them.

Momentum for imposing fees or bans has expanded from a few, often affluent, liberal cities on the West Coast -- San Francisco was the first big city to ban plastic bags, in 2007 -- to dozens of legislative proposals in states like Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Texas and Virginia.

Yet as support increased in places, the national economy began to decline. No state has imposed a fee or a ban.

As the Times notes, city officials in Seattle last summer became the first in the nation to approve a 20-cent fee for every bag sold. But that's now going to be put to a ballot vote later this year.

But a petition drive financed by the plastic-bag industry delayed the plan. Now a far broader segment of Seattle's bag carriers -- its voters -- will decide the matter in an election in August.

Even in a city that likes to be environmentally conscious, the outcome is uncertain.