New York State Attorney General Letitia James sued PepsiCo on Wednesday, claiming the corporation had endangered the environment and misled the public regarding its plans to get rid of single-use plastic packaging.
By Cristen Hemingway Jaynes
The attorney general’s office found that the food and beverage giant’s products had contributed to a great deal of the plastic waste in and around the Buffalo River, James said, as The New York Times reported.
“All New Yorkers have a basic right to clean water, yet PepsiCo’s irresponsible packaging and marketing endanger Buffalo’s water supply, environment, and public health,” James said in a statement, according to a press release from the New York State Attorney General’s Office.
The lawsuit is one of the first to be filed by a U.S. state against a major plastics producer.
The office said that, according to a waste survey conducted last year, of the 1,916 plastic trash pieces that were collected from the Buffalo River that could be easily attributed to an identifiable brand, more than 17 percent were produced by the company, reported Axios.
About 78 percent of waste collected in the Buffalo River watershed from 2013 to 2022 by volunteers from the Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper was plastic, the press release said.
In addition to its cola, PepsiCo makes Lay’s potato chips, Doritos, Cracker Jack, Quaker, Ocean Spray, Ruffles, Gatorade, Mountain Dew and Lipton.
James added that the plastics can break down and enter the water supply, adding to health issues, Reuters reported.
The corporation has set a goal to make all its products completely “recyclable, compostable, biodegradable or reusable” by 2025.
A spokesperson for the company said it “is serious about plastic reduction and effective recycling, and has been transparent in our journey to reduce use of plastic and accelerate new packaging innovation. PepsiCo has been working in New York to address the needs of communities, including advocating for New York bottle bill improvements and extended producer responsibility bills,” according to The New York Times.
James is seeking damages and demanding that the company reduce the amount of plastic packaging entering the Buffalo River, as well as a remedy for contamination caused by PepsiCo products in the Buffalo region. The attorney general is also requesting that the corporation stop distributing or selling products in the region made of single-use plastics that do not have “adequate” warning labels. “No company is too big to ensure that their products do not damage our environment and public health,” James said in the statement. “No one should have to worry about plastics in their drinking water, plastic garbage littering their scenic riverfront, or plastic pollution harming wildlife. I will never hesitate to take on major corporations that put the health and safety of everyday New Yorkers and our planet at risk.”
Cristen is a writer of fiction and nonfiction. She holds a JD and an Ocean & Coastal Law Certificate from University of Oregon School of Law and an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London. She is the author of the short story collection The Smallest of Entryways, as well as the travel biography, Ernest’s Way: An International Journey Through Hemingway’s Life.