CA Schools Pressured To Teach Pro-Plastic Curriculum


It was recently uncovered evidence that lobbyists from the plastics industry used their influence to insert misleading positive messages about plastic bags into environmental curriculum used by the California school system.

Interviews and documents uncovered during the California Watch investigation show that “in 2009, a private consultant hired by state school officials added a new section to the 11th-grade teacher’s 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.”

The curriculum revision was the result of significant pressure applied to California school officials through an American Chemistry Council public relations and lobbying campaign designed to fight proposed plastic bag bans throughout the country.

As public awareness about the negative environmental impact of making, transporting and disposing of plastic bags has grown over the past few years, the plastics industry has redoubled its efforts to keep this wasteful and unnecessary packaging in circulation.

  • It is estimated that worldwide plastic bag consumption falls between 500 billion and 1 trillion bags annually. That breaks down to almost 1 million every minute.
  • A single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to degrade in a landfill, and plastic bags remain toxic even after they break down.
  • The extremely slow decomposition rate of plastic bags leaves them to drift on the ocean for untold years. According to Algalita Marine Research Foundation, these plastic bags cause the death of many marine animals (fish, sea turtles, etc.), every year when animals mistake them for food.
  • The U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually at an estimated cost to retailers of $4 billion.

With complete disregard for these well-documented facts, the plastics industry used its influence to insert misleading points like, “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,” into teaching materials.

SF Gate reports that Sen. Fran Pavley, author of the 2003 legislation requiring that environmental principles and concepts be taught in the state’s public schools, was unaware of the lobby’s efforts until contacted by California Watch. After hearing about the chemical industry additions and edits, Pavley said she would write to Cal/EPA to ask officials to remove some of the trade group’s additions. She said the rest of the curriculum was excellent.

Despite the industry’s best efforts, LA CountySan FranciscoSan Jose and Long Beach have already banned plastic bags and similar measures are up for approval across the country and around the world.

Related Reading:

Natural Gas Industry Uses Coloring Book To Teach Kids “Fracking Is Cool”

Scholastic Promotes American Coal Foundation Curriculum To Fourth Graders

U.S. Government Sponsors Pesticides Propaganda Campaign

Image Credit: Flickr – kengz


Abbe A.
Azaima A6 years ago

such short-term thinking

Youssef A.
Youssef A6 years ago

“Do not corrupt the earth ....” (Quran 7:56)

Grace Adams
Grace Adams6 years ago

Yes those flimsy plastic bags are indeed re-usable. I regularly raid the disposable plastic bag recycling bins of local stores for plastic bags to take to the local soup kitchen/emergency food pantry and to the local community clothes closet.

Ellen Mccabe
Ellen m6 years ago

No wonder the state went to hell in a handbag, not to mention us here in Washington state Californicated. Thanks

Isabel Araujo
Isabel Araujo6 years ago

Reusable bags!

Thomas A.
Thomas A6 years ago

Let the free market decide?!? That's what's happening now! These corporations are so powerful that they are able to rewrite facts in high school curricula!!!

The free market doesn't exist. It can't. That's why we have rules. The "free market" does one thing and one thing only: maximize profit, as fast as possible and as much as possible. That is the only morality. It doesn't matter how many ecosystems have to collapse; it doesn't matter how many people's health is compromised by pollution, it doesn't matter how poorly employees are treated and paid, and it doesn't matter how many people die in world-wide proxy wars. As long as revenue exceeds expenditures, then everything must be OK.

Furthermore, paper bags aren't supposed to be used, either. You're supposed to buy those recycled bags that you can bring back with you a thousand times before they are recycled yet again into something else. Besides, most of the paper bags are made from recycled paper.

Winn Adams
Winn A6 years ago

The State of CA needs to clean up it's act . . . . .without plastic.

Jay W.
Jay W.6 years ago

What we need to do is let the free market decide. What's the alternative at this point? Paper products so more trees get destroyed. A true free market would let the farmers of the United States grow industial hemp, which is eco-friendly, and we could use hemp products (hemp bags) to take our groceries home. They could replace plastic and paper bags.

Valarie S.
Valarie Snell6 years ago

well said, Emily D

John Reinfort
John R6 years ago

Reusable bags or nothin'