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Verify: How well do plastic bag bans help the planet?

Are paper and cotton really that much better?

CLEVELAND — More stores are beginning to ban plastic bags, but is that really helping the environment?

On Wednesday, Andrew Horansky found that although plastic bags raise concerns, paper and cotton bags do too.

In fact, a study in Britain found that cotton bags should be reused up to 131 times to ensure they have more “lower global warming potential” than conventional plastic bags.

And do you clean those bags?

A University of Arizona study found that dangerous bacteria, including E. coli, were in half the bags they tested and that as many as 97% of people never even bothered to wash them.

As for paper bags, it takes a lot more energy to turn trees into paper than it does to turn oil into plastic, meaning paper bags can contribute more to climate change than plastic bags do.

Some experts say the biggest problem with plastic bags simply stems from not disposing of them properly. 

The EPA found in 2017, Americans used more than 4.14 million tons of plastic bags and wraps and only 9% of it was recycled.

Plastic bags take hundreds of years to break down and animals can confuse them for food.

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