Plastic Pollution
August 19 2011

Big Plastic Rewrites History

by Bill Hickman

Well, that's not true, but their lobbying group did influence curriculum for California schools.  In a front page article today, The San Francisco Chronicle exposes the American Chemistry Council for their tactics to change the environmental curriculum which included a section for the 11th grade teacher's edition textbook titled, "The Advantages of Plastic Shopping Bags."  While being cheap and lightweight are great, plastic bags can kill marine life and their benefits are far outweighed by their drawbacks.  The title of that section should have been, "The Advantages of Reusable Shopping Bags."

California Watch also released an article that states, "In 2009, a private consultant hired by California school officials added a new section to the 11th-grade teachers’ edition textbook called “The Advantages of Plastic Shopping Bags.” The title and some of the textbook language were inserted almost verbatim from letters written by the chemistry council.  Although the curriculum includes the environmental hazards of plastic bags, the consultant also added a five-point question to a workbook asking students to list some advantages. According to the teachers’ edition, the correct answer is: “Plastic shopping bags are very convenient to use. They take less energy to manufacture than paper bags, cost less to transport, and can be reused.”

All of these behind the scenes actions are quite troubling and as the SF Chronicle points out, "Although the group will not say how much money it spent on advertising and lobbying the issue, [CA] state documents show it has spent more than $9 million lobbying government agencies since 2003."  We saw it when the lobbyists swarmed into Sacramento last year to kill AB 1998 (CA plastic shopping bag ban) in the 11th hour.  We saw their money influence Seattle in 2009 and the State of Oregon earlier this year.  It's tough to fight that type of money and influence but with a powerful activist network, Surfrider and the environment will prevail in the end.