Tish James, the attorney general of New York, is experimenting with a new legal technique to combat plastic pollution that could serve as a model to get corporations to lessen their reliance on disposable packaging.
On Wednesday in Buffalo, James revealed his intention to sue PepsiCo, the largest food and beverage business in North America. The corporation is responsible for much of the plastic debris picked up by volunteers along rivers in Buffalo and has misleadingly told investors and consumers that it is attempting to decrease new plastic use, James said.
When it comes to making sure their goods don’t endanger people’s health and the environment, no corporation is too large to fail. Buffalo’s water supply, ecology, and public health all at jeopardy due to PepsiCo’s irresponsible packaging and marketing, according to a statement released by Buffalo Mayor Byron James.
A increasing amount of plastic packaging is being discarded in landfills, and this lawsuit is the first of its type as states around the country grapple with solutions. It might be a method to get businesses to take greater responsibility for their trash and the damage plastics cause to the environment.
The attorney general of California has been investigating oil firms for their role in plastic pollution since last year, but no lawsuits have resulted from this inquiry. A nonprofit has sued CocaCola for allegedly deceptive marketing on sustainability while being the greatest plastic polluter in the world.
“This is steps ahead,” Judith Enck, creator of Beyond Plastics and former administrator of the EPA’s Region 2 office, said of James’ complaint. The backing of a state government adds credibility.
PepsiCo, headquartered in Westchester County, is being sued in Erie County Supreme Court over allegations that the company polluted the Buffalo River with plastic and failed to adequately warn consumers about the potential dangers of consuming its products.
PepsiCo did not issue a statement right away.
James wants to mandate that the corporation clean up the plastic pollution and take measures to decrease the amount of trash it dumps into the Buffalo River. Unless a warning label is included, James also wants Pepsi to stop selling plastic-packaged items in the Buffalo area.
“This is classic polluter pays,” Enck remarked. We have laws in place that make the person responsible for a toxic waste spill pay for the clean up. Nothing new here.
The state’s attorney general is also demanding that PepsiCo pay civil penalties and compensation for any harm caused by the company’s activities.
The statute in New York that protects consumers from being taken advantage of is a major inspiration for the lawsuit. It relies on the same basis upon which Attorney General Letitia James’ office has sued former President Donald Trump in a Manhattan court for allegedly misrepresenting the worth of his real estate assets. This law was enacted in 1956 and allows the Attorney General to prosecute firms that participate in fraud.
At 13 locations along the Buffalo River and its tributaries, the Attorney General’s Office tallied the amount of plastic trash that had been dumped in 2022. The lawsuit argues that PepsiCo contributed more than 17 percent of the items with a brand name, which is more than three times as much as the next greatest donor.
PepsiCo products have been identified in previous plastic counts by Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper as a major contributor to pollution in the area.
The complaint links the plastic trash to the abundance of microplastics in the Buffalo River, with an examination showing particles using the same polymers as PepsiCo snack food wrappers and beverage bottles.
James is tackling the issue of the health dangers posed by microplastics, which have recently gained widespread attention due to their discovery in places like the environment, food, water, the lungs, the blood, and the bodies of humans. The microscopic particles that persist in the environment are shed by plastic in the environment.
Buffalo’s drinking water comes from Lake Erie, where microplastics have been discovered.
Researchers have found that microplastics and the compounds produced by them can have detrimental impacts on human health, such as infertility, intestinal inflammation, and neurotoxicity.
The lawsuit also challenges PepsiCo for public claims that company is attempting to prevent plastic pollution. The office of Representative James asserts the firm misled the public by making it appear as though it is taking steps to reduce its use of non-recycled plastic when, in fact, that use has increased over the past four years.
The lawsuit also claims that PepsiCo failed to adequately warn consumers about the potential dangers to human health and the environment posed by the company’s packaging.