I am not sure who the Environmental Affairs Council actually is but they sure are steamed at Whole Foods Market today, filing a complaint with the FTC for misleading claims.
It reads like another debate we hear so much about in diaper land - cloth vs. disposable. Like any Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) you can rig it depending on the assumptions. Hand towel vs. Hand drier? Depends on how many towels you use and if your energy is renewable. In the UK LCA done on diapers two years ago, cloth and disposable diapers came out even. One hilarious assumption was that cloth diaper users IRON their cloth diapers (and so the energy they use is a negative)! Would love to see a harried Mum or Dad ironing a pile of cloth inserts every day!
So back to paper vs. plastic. From what I have read the debate is dead. Paper wins. Upstream it is a debate between non-renewable oil needed to make plastic bags vs. renewable timber to make paper bags. Downstream, plastic is land filled ad infinitum while paper CAN be composted (I know it is not big in the US but in other countries it is).
Interesting to see how this plays out...