Re: “Letter to the editor: Did money make us adopt plastic over paper bags?” (Nov. 29): Are you on Team Paper or Team Plastic?

Like the chicken or the egg, we go around and around: Are paper bags or plastic bags more sustainable?

If you are on Team Paper, you argue that paper bags are from a renewable source and recyclable, whereas plastic bags are made from oil, a nonrenewable source and difficult to recycle. If you’re on Team Plastic, you repurpose your plastic bags making them “reusable.”

Why do Portland and South Portland consumers pay 5 cents for both paper and plastic bags at the grocery store? There’s been a lot of press on the adverse environmental and human health effects of plastic bags. People understand the hazards of plastic bags, while paper seems environmentally benign. Therefore, why pay for paper bags, too?

The reality is paper bags are just as bad environmentally. Over its lifetime, one paper bag produces 70 percent more greenhouse gas emissions and 50 times more water pollutants than a plastic bag, increasing atmospheric acidification and ozone depletion. Paper bags also leave a greater carbon footprint than plastic; it takes the same amount of fuel to ship eight plastic bags as one paper bag.

As Hannaford, a supporter of Portland’s bag fee, has said, “It takes us six deliveries of paper to bring the same number of bags to stores as when we use plastic, with all the fuel use and emissions that go along with that. The production of paper had four times the energy and global warming implications of plastic.”

So what team should you play on? Team Reusable! Take your reusable bags when shopping. Paying 5 cents per bag makes you poorer. Support a bag fee for midcoast Maine by signing a petition at

Phoebe Colvin Oehmig