The check-out inquiry was "paper or plastic?" But it's no longer a choice. Merchants love plastic. It's easy to store and less expensive than paper. Multiple bags can handle heavier items. Thin plastic wraps around whatever is in the bag and around one's hand. But that clinging feature is horrible for the aquatic environment ("Plastic bag fee for city shoppers proposed – again," May 9).

The new bag ban fans are local governments. Montgomery County and Washington, D.C., have them. Baltimore City is exploring having one. For the local political leadership, they can reach over their shoulders, pat themselves on the back for raising revenue, using portions of the revenue for environmental projects. The Sun has voiced its disapproval ("Bag the bag tax", May 12) based upon the city's image and that the tax falls upon the less affluent.

Local jurisdictions should go beyond tinkering with a serious environmental problem. A great example is recycling. Public attitudes and compliance have changed with making it easier to recycle. The best results come when recycling containers are supplied.

For bags, if a tax is the preferred approach, then use the revenue to purchase reusable bags, distributing them to less affluent communities. Good quality bags can be purchased for under a $1.

Or another approach is to require the dispenser of the bags to give the customer a 5-cent per bag credit when the customer supplies the bag, as Giant Foods currently does.

Back to the environment. The source of the bags in the waterways is more than Baltimore City. The Inner Harbor's tributaries are the Patapsco River and the Jones and Gwynns Falls, which flow from Baltimore County. Hopefully the city and county can work together for regional, comprehensive solutions.

Theodore Levin, Pikesville

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