California textbooks drop pro-plastic bag messages
October 30, 2012
The California Environmental Protection Agency revised a controversial K-12 curriculum, removing some positive messages about plastic bags that an interest group lobbied to include. [California Watch]
In August 2011, school officials rewrote part of a new environmental curriculum to include the advantages of shopping with plastic bags following a lobbying effort by the American Chemistry Council on behalf of the plastics industry. Although the curriculum included the environmental hazards of plastic bags, consultants added a five-point question asking students to list advantages of shopping with plastic. One such advantage stated that plastic bags require 70 percent less energy to manufacture than paper.
The textbook change drew sharp criticism from environmental groups and politicians. Following a state investigation into the matter, CalEPA announced Friday that it had revised the textbooks again, replacing statistics offered by the American Chemistry Council with ones more favorable to environmental groups.
While the old text said that 12 percent of Americans recycle plastic shopping bags, the new one says “recycling rates specific to plastic shopping bags are not currently calculated by state or federal agencies.”
Likewise the revised textbooks include a CalRecycle estimate that recycling rates may be as low as 3 percent.
CalEPA assumed responsibility for creating the textbooks on waste and recycling when a 2003 law legislated environmental studies into California K-12 public schools. The agency then outsourced the curriculum design to the nonprofit State Education and Environmental Roundtable (SEER), which departments of education in 16 states created to bolster environmental education in public schools.
Assistant secretary of education and quality programs at CalEPA, Bryan Ehlers, told California Watch that he is very satisfied with SEER’s latest round of curriculum revisions.
“We think the curriculum is excellent, and this process gave us the opportunity to go through it with a fine-toothed comb, getting as the same goal of producing a thoughtful and reasoned discussion about the consequences of consumption,” Ehlers said.
Ellers added that the new curriculum will likely reach about 60,000 students across more than 100 school districts.