Plastic Pollution, Bag Bans
November 14 2011

Don’t cave in to corporate pressure!

by Bill Hickman

Over the past few weeks it appears that big corporations are flexing their wallets to help stamp out some plastic reduction initiatives.  It started when a lightly viewed 'Refuse Plastic' PSA featuring last season's American Idol finalists was targeted.  Next, a major plastics manufacturer poured money into small town plastic bag ban ballot initiative.  Late last week, news came out that the Grand Canyon National Park backed away from proposed ban on disposable plastic water bottles after meeting with a major corporate donor.  It all appears to be legal but many view these actions as underhanded and desperate.  Big plastic can see the writing on the wall and the environmental need for more plastic reductions but are digging their heels to protect their profits.

Our friends at the Plastic Pollution Coalition worked for months with American Idol Season 10 Finalists and Entertainment 19 to put together this PSA to support their REFUSE campaign...

Shortly after the video was released online Forbes Magazine broke the story that "19 Entertainment, which produces American Idol, requested that the piece be removed immediately and that any mention of American Idol be removed from the organization’s materials."  The article references pressure on Entertainment 19 from a sponsor of the show.  What makes this story great is that the Plastic Pollution Coalition did not back down and they left the video up, defending their months of work and collaboration!

The next example of corporate pressure comes from small-town Idaho.  For months, local high school students were working on a proposed plastic bag ban for their hometown of Hailey with a population of approximately 6,200 people.  It started out of a care to protect the environment and to have a real world civics leasson then blossomed into a story that made national news.  Students from Wood River High School started last Spring and managed to gather enough signatures to bring it to a ballot initiative along with raising about $1,000 for the campaign. 

Sounded like a locally driven initiative would successfully work it's way through the system, but there was one big problem that got the initiative defeated.  About 60 miles away in Jerome, ID is one of the major plastic bag manufactures and they decided to "hire a lobbying firm and took out television, radio and newspaper advertisements, warning that 125 jobs at the Jerome plant could be jeopardized if the ban were adopted," according to the LA Times.  I wonder how a plastic bag ban in a town of 6,200 people could threaten 125 jobs from over an hour's drive away?  Most plastics manufacturers seem to be fairly well diversified and bag makers typically make packaging film also so the 125 'jeopardized' jobs seems to be suspicious.

Finally, the New York Times reported last week on a proposed disposible water ban for Grand Canyon National Park that was scrapped after Parks officials met with a major donor.  Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona was set to ban water bottles at the park (#1 littered item) until the Park Service chief met with Coca Cola executives ($13 million donor) and changed his mind.  While dehydration is a serious issue in any desert or hot climate, the Park Service already invested $300k in more water fountains and 'hydration stations' to make the free public resource more available for everyone.  If you are visiting the Grand Canyon, chances are you planned it as a trip so plan ahead and bring your water bottle.  Click Here to sign a petition to help save the Grand Canyon bottle ban and remember to support local and responsible businesses!