Paper or plastic?

As disposable grocery bags wear out their welcome in more cities, the man behind the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement has a firm answer to the paper-or-plastic conundrum: neither.

“Both harm the environment,” Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels said in a news conference covered by The Seattle Times. “Every piece of plastic ever made is still with us in the environment, and the best way to handle waste is not to create it in the first place.”

Nickels and Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin have proposed a 20-cent “green fee” to encourage consumers to bring along their own shopping bags. If approved, Seattle could be reusable-bagging it by next January.

Nickels modeled the green fee—the first of its kind proposed in the United States—on a similar program begun in 2002 in Ireland. In the United States, San Francisco became the first city in March 2007 to ban noncompostable plastic bags. They’ve replaced them with compostable plastic and paper bags.