Shopping bags flapping in the breeze and mucking up sea shore scenery have long been a top culprit when it comes to litter in Massachusetts. Now, Massachusetts lawmakers are mulling a ban on the ubiquitous plastic bags solve the problem.

Almost thirty cities and towns in Massachusetts, including some of the largest, have put some kind of ban in place, and that's giving hope to advocates that a statewide ban could gain state house traction.

It would work like this: You pay an extra 10 cents for each bag - paper or plastic - you take out of a store. The store also offers to sell you a cheap reusable bag that supporters hope you'll continue to bring to the store from now on. After two years, plastic bags would be totally banned, but you can keep paying for paper.

"It's a very powerful motivator for people to adjust their behavior," Rep. Lori Ehrlich from Marblehead, the bill's sponsor, told WGBH News. Charging more to use plastic bags, Ehrlich says, will keep them out of the trash stream and out of mother nature.

Sixteen years ago, Nantuckett was the first to put a ban in place.

Cambridge is the largest municipality yet to create a "bring your own bag" ordinance. On March 31 of this year, grocers, pharmacies, liquor stores, and other retailers in Cambridge began charging a dime for paper or reusable bags.

With Cambridge on board, Boston could join the chorus of bag banners.

"We had a great meeting with some neighborhood folks who contacted us expressing an interested in this and we met briefly with some of Mayor Walsh's people, so it's early in the process, too early to articulate what our proposal will look like," City Councillor Matt O'Malley said. The Jamaica Plain councillor stressed that he and City Council President Michelle Wu are still in the information gathering phase of any plan.

But years of advocacy for bans have been met with years of pushback from plastics companies and some retailers.

Beside saying that a ban would hurt businesses and inconvenience customers, they say the plastic bags are already reusable and recyclable at most retailers that give them out.

And what about those reusable canvas bags Ehrlich prefers you use? From an energy-use standpoint, the plastics people say, it would take 131 trips to the grocer's to make up for the energy that goes into making one bag.

Philip Rozenski is the Senior Director of Sustainability for plastic manufacturer Novolex and the policy chair for the American Progressive Bag Alliance, that opposes bag bans. He says bans are just feel-good policies without any real environmental impact and a ten-cent charge will hurt the poor.

"This is actually a regressive tax. This is not going to be a meaningful policy and it's going to be punitive to families," Rozenski said.

As municipalities pass local bans, stores have to deal with a patchwork of regulations and come to the state to level the playing field.

"That in turn creates this grassroots groundswell and my colleagues hear from their communities that 'hey this is really important, let's make sure we pass this."

Lawmakers have limited bandwidth for new policy and most bills take years to clear the Legislature. Ehrlich's bill did get approved by committee this year, so advocates are hopeful it could gain traction as more towns pass their own bans.

Ehrlich said House Speaker Robert DeLeo and House leadership are inundated with legislative proposals, so members need to build support from the grassroots, or in this case from municipalities, to get bills into law.

"The challenge for us is to make sure that our great ideas get to the top of the pile and we're competing with all the other great ideas," Ehrlich said.