STOP USING PLASTIC BAGS.
This is pretty straight-forward to me. There is no need for these bags. Do not get them at the grocery store, the drug store, Wal-Mart, Target, anywhere. We do not need them. Period. They become garbage that never ever ever goes away.
Ah - wait - garbage. This seems to be the biggest argument I hit when discussing plastic bags. "I need them to line my garbage can. I'm re-using them, what's the big deal? Isn't that the point? Re-using? I'm not just throwing them away."
Well, let's stop to think about this. Why do you need to line your garbage can at all? Why are your protecting and bundling your garbage? Are you trying to make garbage a neat, tidy, compact little thing? How can garbage ever break down if it's all tied neatly in plastic bags? Don't we want garbage to break down? Are we saving it for posterity's sake, so aliens who visit our (dead) planet in the future can see what we threw away?
"Garbage is messy, the garbage can will get messy and gross if I don't line it." Here's some news for you: You can actually clean out a garbage can. Yes, it's true. We stopped using bags to line the can some time last year. Two years ago? I'm thinking you have to be a serious prima donna if you can't deal with your own garbage. Really. I mean that. Otherwise, think of it this way: some of your garbage IS messy, yes, we all get that. But, aren't there other things you get that come in plastic bags anyway? Bread, cat food, dog food, potatoes, those kind of things... are you just contributing those to your garbage? Why not save THOSE smaller bags, and put messy things in those but keep the can unlined? It's easy. Because not ALL your garbage is messy, right? Just some of the stuff. If you want to say, "Doesn't having to wash the can waste water?" then I say, no, not if you aren't going crazy with the washing. You don't have to. There's no need for bleach and Lysol. (Why do you think your garabge is that bad? What the heck are you throwing away? Medical waste?) And when you think of the water that goes into the manufacturing of the bags in the first place... well there ya go.
Let's come to terms with our garbage, shall we? What happens to things when you throw them in the can that makes them untouchable in mere seconds? Why are we so dainty? Why can't we own up to our own garbage anymore?
At least, at the VERY LEAST, if you still just HAVE to line the can... do NOT take the whole bag out if there is no "mess". At least try to re-re-use it when you can. At least, that. It's kind of funny, really. We're becoming such a society of feeling entitled to get something for free, that we wouldn't couldn't dare think of actually BUYING other bags for garbage can liners (remember buying bags?) or the biodegradable bags for dog poop etc... no, we have to have our bags free and clear from the grocery store. In fact, double-bag it, please. I need more bags. It is owed to me. (That's something that stymies me too - bag manufacturers making bags so thin we have to double-bag everything. Why does THAT make sense???)
Just... stop. Stop selling out the future just because we've forgotten how to handle anything that might be remotely messy. Stop.