Paper or plastic? Starting May 4 in New Jersey, the answer to that question will be neither.
That's because the state's plastic bag ban starts next that day, and it goes beyond those single-use plastic bags at the grocery checkout.
All grocery stores over 2,500 square feet will be banned from giving out both the plastic and paper bags that have been staples at checkouts for decades. Styrofoam containers, like the ones used for take-out food, will also be banned as the nation's strictest plastics laws go into effect.
The ban applies to stores and restaurants, not consumers, who will still be able to buy plastic baggies, garbage bags and the like.
Clean Ocean Action has been fighting for decades to ban the plastics that, lightweight as they are, amount to millions of pounds of trash every year, winding up in oceans and landfills without breaking down.
Stew Leonards' stores, like the one in Paramus, have been using environmentally friendly paper bags for thirty years, but next week, those too will be no more.
"You can still use it for meats, produce. I think it's a great way to take care of the environment, so New Jersey is trying to lead the charge on this and other states will follow soon," said the store's manager, Dane Morris.
The store has spent months prepping its shoppers for the change, offering half price reusable bags for the weeks leading up to and following the switch.
"We tell everyone because you don't want them to be unprepared next week — pack the stuff in the cart and take it out to their car," said cashier Vinny Serra. "We all tell them when the ban starts, got the sign right here, sign outside the store."
It will certainly take some getting used to, but when shoppers go inside after next week, be prepared to BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag, that is) because the cashier won’t have a bag to put groceries into.
Those who wish to continue using their own paper or plastic bags can do so if they bring them on their own, but the grocery stores themselves will not be able to provide them any longer.