August 31st, 2011

Plastic Bag Manufacturers Edit California Textbooks

PR Watch

The American Chemistry Council (ACC), a lobbying group representing plastic bag manufacturers, successfully convinced the California Department of Education to rewrite its environmental textbooks and teachers’ guides to include positive statements about plastic grocery bags.

ACC wrote a letter to education department officials that said in part, “To counteract what is perceived as an exclusively negative positioning of plastic bag issues, we recommend adding a section here entitled ‘Benefits of Plastic Shopping Bags.’” The state’s final document was, in fact, edited to contain a new section titled “Advantages of Plastic Shopping Bags.” The title and some of the newly-inserted textbook language were lifted almost verbatim from letters written by the ACC.

A private consultant hired by California school officials inserted a question into an environmental workbook quiz asking students to list some advantages of plastic bags. The correct answer to the question (which is worth five points) is: “Plastic bags are very convenient to use. They take less energy to manufacture than paper bags, cost less to transport and can be reused.” The changes were made in 2009, and coincided with ACC’s nationwide PR and lobbying push to beat back efforts across the U.S. to enact laws and ordinances banning plastic grocery bags. The changes in the environmental curriculum were discovered by the investigative reporting team California Watch, a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting.

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