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at Hilex Poly, Superbag Operating Ltd, which makes plastic trash bags, says that the ChicoBag website cites outdated Environmental Protection Agency data, such as that only 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled: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!
Photo by Zainub.