Plastics industry editing California textbooks

August 21, 2011

Under pressure from the American Chemistry Council, a lobbying group for the plastics industry, schools officials in California edited a new environmental curriculum to include positive messages about plastic shopping bags, interviews and documents show. [CaliforniaWatch]

The rewritten textbooks and teachers’ guides coincided with a public relations and lobbying effort by the chemistry council to fight proposed plastic bag bans throughout the country. But despite the positive message, activists say there is no debate: Plastic bags kill marine animals, leech toxic chemicals and take an estimated 1,000 years to decompose in landfills, California Watch said.

In 2009, California school officials hired a private consultant to add a new section to the 11th-grade teachers’ edition textbook called “The Advantages of Plastic Shopping Bags.” The new section mimics almost verbatim 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, California Watch added.

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.”

Grocery stores and other retailers spend about $4 billion a year to purchase the 100 billion plastic bags Americans use each year, most of which end up in the trash.

“The American Chemistry Council obviously got engaged to protect their bottom line,” said Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Santa Monica to California Watch.

Also under fire for alleged skewed curriculum, Scholastic Inc. agreed to limit corporate motivated educational materials following pressure from parents and education groups to stop distributing fourth-grade curriculum paid for by the coal industry.

In 2004, Cal/EPA called together a team of stakeholders – including industry trade groups and environmental organizations – to provide advice on writing the new curriculum. The chemistry council was critical of a section that portrayed plastic bags as harmful to the environment and suggested edits.

At the time, the plastic industry was fighting state and city plastic shopping bag bans across the country. In 2010, it successfully squashed legislation that would have banned plastic bags in the state. It was not so successful in San Francisco and Los Angeles County, which in recent years have imposed bans, California Watch said.

“Parents should be outraged that their kids are going to be potentially taught bogus facts written by a plastic-industry consultant suggesting advantages of plastic bags,” said Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, a recycling and environmental lobbying group.

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Having a couple of totes in your car saves a whole lot in the long run, come on folks it’s not all that hard.

At least the plastics industry has stopped promoting their discredited studies claiming that reusable shopping bags breed dangerous bacteria. Every single study that claimed that was sponsored by the plastics industry and used the ultra-low drinking water standard to evaluate the shopping bags. Unless you drink your shopping bag, you should have no problems. Consumer reports famously said that even if you licked the inside of the dirtiest bag in the study, you would get exposed to no more bacteria than you would from eating a salad.

The issue here is not “Paper or Plastic.”

The issue here is whether textbooks are fair game for interest groups to get their message across. My opinion on the issue is “NO” text books are not an appropriate place for interest group propaganda. (Whether it’s plastic bags or gays in history or whatever else.)

My opinion on the “paper vs plastic” issue is that we should employ reusable bags because we want to, not because we’re told to. My opinion on being told what I can shop into is “leave me the hell alone.” Valid opinions, both, but not really germane to the article posted above.

I don’t like using textbooks to further special interest groups either.

Since we’re dumbing down education, why don’t we switch to public domain textbooks and save tons of wasted money. The PD books could probably be updated faster anyway. Wikibooks anyone?

Very true!

“Parents should be outraged”??? We all should be outraged.

Whether it’s industry leaders bending statistics for a report that supports their “bottom line” or government leaders like Larry Allen of the SLO APCD falsifying statistics for a forecast that supports his own agenda, we seem to be surrounded by dishonorable people.

I guess I’m just amazed that this is addressed in textbooks.

For decades, stores used only paper bags. Then the environmentalists sounded the alarm–save the trees! Don’t waste paper! So paper bags were phased out in most places and businesses switched to plastic only.

Now the environmentalists have changed their minds and want us to ditch paper AND plastic and use only fabric bags. It’s all a bit confusing. I recycle and reuse whenever practically possible but there’s just no way I’m gonna lug around 10+ fabric shopping bags to Target, Albertson’s or Walmart. I reuse the plastic bags for garbage can liners, picking up animal waste and many other uses around the house.

Guess I’ll have to start a secret stockpile of plastic bags along w/some incandescent bulbs and other evil soon-to-banned products!

Let me start by saying that I do not carry around fabric shopping bags. However, I don’t attempt to rationalize it. It’s lazy and wasteful. So I’m not perfect. But If you really think about it, lugging 10+ fabric shopping bags to the store is not really that big of a deal. In fact, you should be downright grateful you don’t have to put a 30 pound water jug on your head and go fetch you water from 5 miles away every morning, like they do in a lot of the world. What, you can’t fit 10 fabric shopping bags that would weigh.. 2 pounds.. in your SUV?

So what I’m saying here is, if you’re going to be lazy and indifferent about the effect of not reusing bags, at least admit it, and don’t act like it’s actually a big deal when in fact it’s not. We’ll never get anywhere in this world until we at least start being direct and honest with each other.

Actually the fabric bags hold much more than the plastic and the paper bags. I like using them as I don’t have to make so many trips from the car. Plus they are stronger so your eggs don’t end up on the asphalt.

OK, I’ll be direct and honest with you. But, here’s a heads up–I’m neither “lazy” or “indifferent.” I have a big family, including a special-needs child. I shop 2-3 times a week and buy hundreds of dollars of groceries, household supplies, pet food and home-improvement items. I like plastic bags. I like paper bags. I re-use them, as I previously mentioned. I’m not going to use multiple fabric shopping bags that get dirty w/each trip to the store (and pick up God knows what kind of germs from the shopping cart, conveyor belt, etc.) and then have to re-wash them before each shopping excursion.

{I’m neither “lazy” or “indifferent.”} You are, “too busy”; I think that most of us can relate. While I was traveling in the midwest just recently, no where I went did I see ANY recycling bins; none at any restaurants, shopping centers, hotels or airports, none, anywhere. Are they too “busy”, lazy or indifferent ? Mostly, it is a lack of education and opportunity. If no one in the community cares enough to start recycling, it doesn’t get done. You “know” what you can do; you “know” what you probably “should” do; you are making the choice that right now, at this time in your life, that one thing of purchasing and using fabric bags is just too much for you to be able to handle at this time. Fine. So the question is: When will be the right time for you? What will make the choice of you using fabric bags a thing that you can and will do? I do understand that having more than one child makes grocery shopping more of a job; having a special needs child effectively doubles the effort of that job, and your duly noted concern about the fabric bags picking up bacteria is certainly a reasonable concern; but do you ever see yourself being able to use fabric or canvas bags most of them time? Washing them occasionally, remembering to take them to the store with you, remembering to take them into the store; all of that is an effort for sure. So, do you ever see yourself using fabric/canvas bags? Thanks for thinking about an answer.

People are creatures of habit, that’s why they keep using plastic bags. I don’t want to say how many but I also have a slew of kids. On any giving weekend with their friends I usually have at least 8-12 kids at my house, I go through a ton of groceries. Trust me Costco is my friend, I buy TP to supply an army.

Now that I’m used to fabric bags I like them so much better than other bags. As far as germs and dirt, that’s simple nonesense. I wash my produce before I use it and everything else is sealed and it’s certainly not muddy or dirty enough to soil the bag. If one of my fabric bags gets too nasty then I toss it. But over the last few years I’ve only thrown away two bags. I save five cents a bag by using fabric bags when shopping at the market so the bags pay for themselves. As far as garbage liners, I get that. Somehow I still end up with the occasional plastic bag and I do use those to line my small bathroom bins but we don’t put anything wet in them in so I even reuse those unless they get gross. Even if I don’t have a plastic bag to line my little bins then it’s no big deal as the bins are all washable anyway. It’s all about habit. They seem especially convenient for a large family like mine. You can fit at least twice as much in each bag, the handles don’t break and you save money.

You buy ten bags of groceries every week? Oh my God, you guys are living in the lap of luxury! We buy ten bags in about two months. Course we grow a lot of our produce. You know for damn meaness I use plastic bags to haul our vegetables to the house. I then throw them into the trash can for the land fill. Makes me feel good. If we couldn’t use plastic bags from the store I would bring plastic bags along in the car and use my own. Everyone would want to buy them from me. I would set up a sign outside the store and sell them out of my car.

Things change as we change how we behave.

What’s your business?

IF the added material from the chemical industry isn’t presented as “fact” but is instead presented as “antidotal” or as opinion (which is what “Plastic shopping bags are very convenient to use. … and they can be reused.” is, an opinion, since most do not reuse their plastic bags for shopping but for other uses). To intersperse opinions in with some contested facts is purposefully attempting to skew the perception of the industries’ product. The whole focus of the chemical industry right now should be to find alternatives to petroleum based plastics and push to make the alternatives cheap enough to compete. Eventually all petroleum products will have to be replaced as the supply of cheaply produced oil products dwindles down. I for one cannot understand how an industry can not be looking ahead to the eventual reality but instead focuses on short term profits, putting the health of humans and animals secondary to their ability to make a profit.

“antidotal” = “anecdotal”?

Yeah, that’s right! Well, I’ve never claimed to be perfect, so thank you for the grammar correction.

It’s not easy to be perfect like me.

Yes it is easy to be perfect like you. I think your comment is very cute and endearing. Nice to hear from a feminine lady. My wife would say something like that. She is also very feminine. Helps me to strive to be a man.

“antidotal” = “anecdotal”?

No I think its “anecdotal?”

This is a prime example of how the corps are getting rich off the backs of the rest of us. They don’t care about our health, they use millions to brain wash our children on something that’s bad for the environment, makes us more dependent on fossil fuel and over all isn’t necessary. The only necessity is for us to make sure that the don’t pay taxes and that they make a lot of money. They gain money we get screwed, so what’s new. They only hope we have is that parents are smart enough to counter the brain washing by these big corps.

A plastic bag is much cheaper than a paper bag cost wise. This is what businesses like about them. I agree with you that business interests get much more credence in our society than they should.

I usually reuse store bags for other purposes. If I didn’t get plastic backs from the stores, I’d have to buy plastic bags for trash can liners and other uses.

As far as disposable uses are concerned, I’m pretty sure that paper bags are better for the environment though. I’m not certain that how long it takes a plastic bag to break down in a landfill is a useful measure of their impact to the environment. A plastic bag in sunlight loses strength pretty rapidly. I do agree that a plastic bag in the water is a threat to wildlife though.

As has been pointed out, a reusable bag beats both paper or plastic on economy and ecology.

Plastic bags can take up to a 1000 years to degrade. Paper bags are bad for different reasons then plastic bags. They are bad mostly because of deforestation. As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to realize that everything we do has repercussions. We need to do a better job of planning ahead and not just living for the moment. I’m not walking around in Birkenstocks eating raw carrots wearing a hemp hat but I do what I can. I feel that even my little bit helps. I remember reading the stats after everyone started getting recycle bins with our garbage bins. People now recycle on average of over half of their garbage. If the resources are made available and easy to get then I believe that everyone will get on board. Perhaps stores could help out more by offering a free fabric bag for everyone that signs up for a store card or/and after every $300.00 purchase or something like that.

In a thousand years people aren’t going to be worried about plastic bags. Most likely we will be eating a pill or two a day shot to us out of no where. Plastic bags will be hardened into steel.

When I was a garbage man years ago we filled a land fill and they built a huge housing project on top of it. Lots of plastic bags in that land fill. Wish I could have grabbed some of those bags for resale today. By now the smell would be gone.

The houses were over a million back then. I think it was Mission Hills down in LA. It was in the 70’s. God knows what those houses are worth now. Last time looked they were not on a tilt. Guess the bags really did harden.

All you green people relax. The bags are put to good use in building homes.