Bruce Millington, beer coordinator at the Wegmans liquor store in Cherry Hill, wonders how customers who are unprepared for New Jersey’s statewide ban on single-use plastic bags will manage while juggling heavy, loose bottles of wine out to their cars.

As of Wednesday, cashiers at the store will no longer be bagging bottles for them, though they might supply empty boxes when available. All New Jersey retail, grocery, and pharmacy stores, along with restaurants and other food service businesses, are banned from giving out single-use plastic bags, as well as foam containers, though there are some exceptions.

What about switching to paper bags? Supermarkets can no longer provide those either.

“We have long-term customers that still probably don’t know there is going to a be a bag ban,” Millington said. “So we’re trying to educate everybody as they come in. Right now, we do a lot of bags for wines and anything we sell.”

However, Millington, who happened to be shopping at the Wegmans grocery store across the parking lot from the liquor store, said the ban “doesn’t bother me at all.”

Mixed reactions

A survey of a dozen shoppers Friday at the Wegmans and Target, both in Cherry Hill, showed most are aware of the ban but had mixed reactions.

Most understood the environmental underpinning of the law — an attempt to lessen the estimated 100 billion single-use plastic carryout bags thrown away in the U.S. annually. The bags, not included in municipal recycling programs, are often either taken to landfills, or found drifting into trees or onto streets where they get flushed down storm drains and into waterways, including the ocean. The bags are also made from fossil fuels.

At least eight other states — California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon, and Vermont — have banned single-use plastic bags, according to the National Conference of State Legislators. California was the first in 2014. And at least 11 cities, including Philadelphia, have bans.

Shoppers, especially those with families, are concerned about the inconvenience and, for some, what they see as an added expense to buying reusable bags when carryout bags had been free for decades.

Aigner McDaniels, of Philadelphia, shops in New Jersey to escape the city’s soda tax and “because everything is cheaper.” She wasn’t pleased when the city’s own ban on single-use bags went into effect April 1. So as she loaded the trunk of her car in the Wegmans lot off Route 70, she lamented being faced with another ban.

» READ MORE: Everything you need to know about Philadelphia’s plastic bag ban

In New Jersey, if stores violate the ban, they’ll get a warning for a first offense. They’ll face a $1,000 fine for a second violation and $5,000 fine for every violation after that. That applies to retail stores, pharmacies, restaurants, and convenience stores.

They all can sell reusable bags to customers. A reusable bag is typically a thicker, more durable type of plastic than a single-use bag. It also can be made of fabric, nylon, cloth, hemp, or a machine washable fabric with handles.

“Sometimes I go to the market, and I forget to bring bags,” McDaniels said. “And so I buy more bags.”

Nearby, Etty Sims, of Cherry Hill, was loading bags into an SUV. She has four children and her grocery orders are large.

“It just makes things more complicated,” Sims said. “I think there are other things we can do to protect the environment. I don’t think plastic bags should be the first thing to go. I understand the issue with all the plastic accumulation in our world. But we could use paper bags. I don’t know why they are stopping them. Those are biodegradable. It’s not all or nothing, right?”

Sims doesn’t regularly shop at stores such as Aldi, or Lidl, where shoppers have long had to bring their own bags. She does have some reusable bags at home, “but they’re never big enough.” And she wonders what will happen if she forgets to bring bags.

Reusable bags sell in Wegmans for 99 cents, and that can prove expensive if you have a well-stocked cart, Sims said. “I can’t do a full shopping trip on three or four bags.”

Wegmans will charge 35 cents a bag for online pickup orders. ShopRite will charge a single $1.50 fee.

Karen O’Shea, a spokesperson for ShopRite, said the stores are helping educate shoppers with reminders to bring their own bags.

“ShopRite believes the best bag is a reusable bag and we continue to work to make sure our stores are prepared when the law takes effect May 4,“ O’Shea said.

In the wake of all the bans, many larger retailers, including Walmart, CVS, and Target are acknowledging the environmental toll of plastic, and have joined in the Beyond the Bag initiative, designed “to reinvent the single-use plastic retail bag, with the goal of identifying, testing and implementing viable design solutions and models that more sustainably serve the purpose of the current retail bag.”

Educating customers

For its part, Wegmans is prepared for the ban and understands customers’ concerns, said spokesperson Tracy Van Auker. The chain has 106 stores nationally, and nine in New Jersey.

“We have the benefit of having already eliminated plastic bags from 61 of our stores over the last few years, and we’ve learned a lot along the way,” Van Auker said.

Company surveys show “the vast majority” of customers already owned reusable bags. The top reasons they don’t bring them to the store: They left them at home or forgot to bring them in from the car.

“To help our customers remember their bags, we created new reusable bag reminder signs and strategically placed them throughout our parking lots and store entrances,” Van Auker said, adding that the store has been trying to educate customers along the way.

“As we’ve encountered plastic bag legislation in numerous markets, we’ve seen the impact it can have in shifting customers to reusable bags, the best option to solve the environmental challenge of single-use bag,” Van Auker said. “We’ve also learned there’s more we can do, and a bigger impact we can make, together with our customers. Earlier this month, we announced that we will eliminate plastic bags companywide by the end of 2022.”

‘So much waste’

Carolyn Zehren, of West Deptford, said of the ban: “I think I’m fine with it … because there’s so much waste in the world.”

At a nearby Target, on Route 38 and across from the Cherry Hill Mall, Bruce and Andrea Isakoff were a bit more skeptical, though they say the ban won’t cause them much of an inconvenience.

Bruce Isakoff said there are already probably “billions and billions” of plastic bags in the ocean.

“Will this really make a difference?” he asked. “In the short term, you’re not going to see an impact. But in the long term, you might see it.”