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Plastic Bag Industry Says ChicoBag is Talking Trash

Plastic Bag Industry Says ChicoBag is Talking Trash

In what seems to be a case of Goliath going against David, three leading manufacturers of plastic bags are suing ChicoBag, which makes reusable bags that can be folded into their own carrying pouch and which bills itself as a greener alternative. According to the New York Times, the lawsuit contends that ChicoBag “knowingly overstated figures like the size of the garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean and the number of marine creatures killed by eating plastic garbage.”

As an examples, Philip Rozenski, the director of marketing and sustainability at Hilex Poly, Superbag Operating Ltd, which makes plastic trash bags, says that the ChicoBag website cites outdated Environmental Protection Agency data, such as that only 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled:

Citing E.P.A. figures from 2009, Mr. Rozenski said that 11.8 percent of bags, sacks and wraps made from the most common polyethylene compounds are recycled. That category, however, also includes shrink wrap, plastic coverings over fresh grocery items or the plastic enclosing cartons of water bottles.

Mr. Rozenski styles his company’s lawsuit as a business case. “This is about a direct competitor making false and misleading claims within the marketplace. When ChicoBag is making these claims, it directly benefits Chico.”

Andy Keller, the inventor of the ChicoBag and the company’s president — who also dresses up as the BagMonster by donning some 500 plastic bags — counters that

…he believed the industry was going after a small competitor because “their product” had “become the poster child of unnecessary waste.” He added that the facts on his Web site “have been part of the public debate for years.”

Keller (in a rather generous move) points out that Hilex Poly’s website does appeal to those who are eco-minded, as it calls for using reusable and biodegradable products and for reducing the waste from disposing paper bags. ChicoBag’s bags are meant to be used multiple times, he points out, while the likes of HilexPoly makes bags for single use.

As Rick Lanham, a lawyer specializing in claims made under the federal Lanham Act which prohibits false and misleading advertising points out in the New York Times that the plastic bag companies don’t exactly have their case against ChicaoBag in the, um, bag:

“If a consumer cares about the environment, lowering their footprint, if he cares about disposal — would it really matter if the swirling mass in the Pacific is the size of Texas or just Rhode Island?” Mr. Kurnit said.

He added, “It kind of comes down to whether the degree of exaggeration, as alleged, if proven, would be sufficiently material as to influence a consumer’s purchasing decisions.”

Somehow I don’t think it’s information from the ChicoBag website that is the (sole) reason that people are choosing to use reusable bags rather than single use ones. Look out the window at the side of the highway or on the beach or the ocean and, sadly, you’re very likely to see a plastic bag flapping around. Is there a lawsuit against whoever made all those bags in the first place?

Take action: sign the petition to ban plastic bags in Oregon!

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Photo by Zainub.

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50 comments

+ add your own
9:36AM PDT on Apr 9, 2012

W Chico-bag

4:01PM PDT on Oct 13, 2011

I love ChicoBag! Plastic bags should be eliminated from grocery stores entirely.

9:35AM PDT on Sep 19, 2011

Just a few additional facts to consider: Plastic bags have a lower carbon footprint than either paper or reusable bags, and are 100% recyclable.
Plastic bags provide a cleaner, safer option at the grocery store. Reusable bags can contain high levels of lead, and microbiologists have found harmful bacteria in reusable bags.

11:09PM PDT on Jun 22, 2011

Unbelievable.

6:18PM PDT on Jun 17, 2011

i reuse them the recycle

11:28AM PDT on Jun 16, 2011

In this case, what difference does it make if the statistics aren't 100% accurate? Fact is, we use WAY too much plastic in this world and we'd all be doing mother earth a favor if we used reusable bags and other reusable products.

3:45AM PDT on Jun 16, 2011

Such is the case!! Well said Connie. It is down to us as individuals to take responsibilty for ourselves and all we use. Look to your conscience!!

11:38AM PDT on Jun 15, 2011

Banning plastic bags is not the solution. The solution remains for people who use the damn things to not toss them on the ground, but recycle them as required. There are companies who will take the bags and make clothes and other items out of them. They are reusable for other purposes as well.

Bottom line is that people are the problem not the product. Reusable bags will get tossed on the ground as well. Just like potato chip bags, food packages, beer bottles and beer cans. That is why California has Adopt A Highway. Groups help keep the roads clean by cleaning up after the trash disposers. (being nice.)

Don't toss it, recycle it. Reusable or not.

7:30AM PDT on Jun 15, 2011

We have a rare and nearly extinct species of turtle in our bay, along with an extremely rare breed of dolphins, that are in this state due to the ingesting of plastic waste. Especially in the case of turtles, who eat bags thinking they are jellyfish, and die because of it. We have dolphin pods and birds and other marine life (much of it rare) getting caught in masses of trash and discarded fishing nets and drowning. This is what makes me avoid plastic waste. The trash heap in the North Atlantic Gyre is also a huge concern. The waves have smashed the trash into tiny fragments of plastic that gets mistaken for plankton and will take 40,000-50,000 years to degrade. There is no overstating the urgency of the matter. EVERY disposable plastic should be NATURALLY biodegradable, or illegal. Period!

Also... Goliath fighting David is not news, it's normal. It's news if David wins. But these idiots fighting this small biz IS news - it proves how shady they are and how true the problem is or they wouldn't be so afraid as to shut him down!!! Monopoly, much?

4:53AM PDT on Jun 15, 2011

I raid my local supermarket's bag recycling bin about three times a week for bags for two local non-profit agencies who both go through a lot of "single use" plastic bags second hand.

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