That question at the checkout line, “Paper or plastic?” may soon become a thing of the past, due to a possible ban in Santa Barbara of grocery store plastic bags and styrofoam containers for prepared food.

A four-member group from Santa Barbara City College, which recently held a sustainability workshop aimed at more efficient use of natural resources, presented the idea this Tuesday to the Santa Barbara City Council, which seemed eager to support the ban. The council forwarded the suggestion to the city’s Solid Waste Subcommittee for review.

Citing that both plastic bags and styrofoam containers are petroleum-based products, the SBCC students also brought up the negative effects on wildlife that can result from leakage of toxins from these manufactured goods.

However, Santa Barbara will not be the first city to implement such a prohibition, if the council decides to do so. San Francisco recently passed a ban on plastic bags at grocery stores, and several other regions around the state have prohibited the use of styrofoam in the food industry, including Ventura and Orange Counties and the cities of Berkeley, Oakland and Santa Cruz.

The ban could have serious ramifications for local businesses. The student proposal did not directly address this issue, but it stated the group hoped the use of cloth bags and biodegradable products would fill the void left by plastic. One student recommended asking restaurants to add a small tax to take-out orders to cover the increased cost of switching from styrofoam containers to more expensive alternatives.