05 September 2011 We Can’t Make This Stuff Up Posted by: Caitlin Leutwiler | 4 comments | Share: Plastic bags imperil leatherback sea turtles, who are thought to mistake the bags for jellyfish. (An irregular column to capture insults to wildlife) Plastic bags have long been the bane of conservationists around the world. Cheap to produce and disposed of without a second thought, plastic bags kill marine animals, leech toxic chemicals and take an estimated 1,000 years to decompose in landfills. Not to mention they play a starring role in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. So why are California textbooks now touting positive messages about these disposable derelicts? According to the Huffington Post, schools officials in California edited a new environmental curriculum to include positive messages about plastic shopping bags after feeling pressure from the American Chemistry Council, a lobbying group for the plastics industry. This included a rewrite of textbooks and teachers’ guides, featuring a new section to the 11th-grade teachers’ 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. Absent from the rewrite is the fact that each year, Americans use an estimated 100 billion plastic shopping bags – almost all of which are thrown into the garbage, and with many migrating to the planet’s rivers, lakes and oceans. The millions of tons of plastic floating in the world’s oceans traps as many as a million seabirds every year, as well as some 100,000 marine mammals. Many of these animals mistake the bags for food, such as the imperiled leatherback sea turtle, who likely mistakes the plastic bags for jellyfish, a preferred food source. Fortunately, change is in the air: throughout the country, efforts have been launched to cut down on the use of plastic bags, from the explosion of reusable shopping bag sales to plastic bag taxes. Washington, D.C. was the first to institute a 5 cent tax on plastic bags distributed by any “business that sells food items,” from grocery stores to bakeries. The Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Act, known locally as “Skip the Bag, Save the River,” is an attempt to save the city’s degraded Anacostia River. Not only has the effort been successful, but Treehugger asked if this may be the most effective tax ever. Just one month after its introduction last January, the number of plastic bags handed out by supermarkets and other establishments dropped from the 2009 monthly average of 22.5 million to just 3 million. While significantly reducing plastic waste, the tax revenues will be used to clean up the Anacostia. The District isn’t the only one reaping success from a plastic bag ban. In China, a ban on super thin plastic bags reduced plastic bag usage by 66 percent and saved China 1.6 million tons of petroleum. With savings like these, a plastic bag tax has the potential to catch on worldwide. Now THAT’S the kind of problem solving that should be taught in schools. To learn more about how plastic bags make it from the check-out aisle to our waterways, watch The Majestic Plastic Bag – a Mockumentary. 4 Responses to “We Can’t Make This Stuff Up” fred September 6th, 2011 the amount of trash the cruise ship dump is enormous. Go to norweigin or carnival on facebook and ask for a eco friendly cruise and they will laugh you off the site Reply Bette September 8th, 2011 Stop the madness…..Buy a tote bag for your groceries. Plastics, soft or hard can not be broken down nor does it rot like a natural substance. It literally last forever. Plant & protect Danny’s trees for life. Trees are the lungs of the earth. Reply Project GreenBag September 8th, 2011 We must ban plastic bags. Many people will never change their habits otherwise. Project GreenBag is the sustainable, eco-friendly alternative to plastic bags. 100% organic cotton, biodegradable, and made in San Francisco California. http://www.ProjectGreenBag.com http://www.facebook.com/ProjectGreenBag http://twitter.com/projectgreenbag Reply Kelly Dupree September 9th, 2011 A plastic bag tax is a brilliant idea! I hope it catches on! Reply Post Your Comment Click here to cancel reply. Name (required) Mail (required) (will not be published) You May also be interested in Wolf Weekly Wrap Up Some Good News for Wolves in Idaho… Finally! Muddied Waters for Washington Wolves Did You Submit Your Comments? Red Wolves Still in Trouble But We Have Time to Help; Comment Period Closing on Harmful Mexican Gray Wolf Rule; Washington’s Lookout Pack Caught in Fire Literary Legacy Terry Tempest Williams is a widely published author and naturalist and a fierce advocate for ecological consciousness and social change. Big Things Coming from the Northwest Defenders of Wildlife work in the Northwest creates opportunities to promote wildlife protection and sustainable management of public lands.