BUFFALO, N.Y. -- It's an item used on a daily basis, but many don't realize how much it is actually being used. Researchers say the United States uses roughly 100-billion plastic bags a year.

"We need to look at proactive solutions that help advance the environment and create a regenerative economy while also balancing economic needs,” said Ryan McPherson, WNY Environmental Alliance Chair.

Hoping to address the issue, and how it's impacting the ecosystem, the Alliance held a public forum Wednesday.

"Unfortunately our research has proven the Great Lakes are as contaminated with plastic pollution as some of the worst parts of the world's oceans,” said Dr. Sherri Mason, SUNY Fredonia Geology and Environmental Sciences Chair.

Because plastic particles in water are so small, a comprehensive cleanup of the Great Lakes can't really occur as it would actually kill the ecosystem many are trying to save. Instead, it's all about saying no to the plastic bags and opting for reusable ones.

"It's a hard habit to break, but it’s taking a conscious effort,” Mason said. “If I don't have a reusable bag I find some way to deal with that. Those are steps, individual steps we can do as people."

The gathering comes a day after Governor Andrew Cuomo blocked a New York City law to impose a 5 cent bag fee. He plans to establish a task force to examine the problem statewide and push for legislation by the end of 2017.

Even Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz tried to push for a county-wide ban on plastic bags last year, but his proposal to study the impact of a ban was rejected by local legislature.

"Change takes time and change takes patience,” McPherson said. “The real solution here is keeping an open mind, looking at alternatives, and thinking those through. And then making a rational decision from it."