Neither is particularly great, but I’d personally say to go with the paper product. It is ultimately coming from a renewable resource (trees) as opposed to plastic, which is a petroleum product (although petroleum products, ie fuel, are used in the production and transportation of both). However, plastic bags require less energy and material to create and transport. They are also smaller, however, so this may not be a one-for-one comparison (I know I can get at least a couple plastic bag’s worth of items into one paper bag). One other key point is that paper bags are much easier to recycle than plastic bags, although some stores are now starting to accept them, as you mentioned. Taking into account that either could be recycled, it’s a bit of a toss-up. One thing to note is that if you can reuse a plastic bag around the house, such as as a garbage bag for a small garbage can instead of buying special bags, it may be advantageous to go with plastic.
Most plastic bags in grocery stores are not made from petroleum; around 80% are made using feedstocks derived from natural gas.
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