Published on November 16, 2023, 6:12 pm

New York State Files Lawsuit Against Pepsico For Environmental Pollution And Misleading Consumers

New York State Takes Legal Action Against PepsiCo for Environmental Pollution

In a groundbreaking move, New York state has filed a lawsuit against beverage and snack food giant, PepsiCo, accusing the company of polluting the environment and endangering public health through its single-use plastic bottles, caps, and wrappers. This legal action marks one of the first instances in which a U.S. state targets a major producer of plastics.

New York Attorney General Letitia James alleges that PepsiCo’s plastic waste is a significant contributor to the pollution found in and near the upstate Buffalo River. In fact, more than 17% of the trash in this area can be directly linked to specific PepsiCo brands. The lawsuit further claims that the company failed to inform consumers about the potential health and environmental risks associated with plastics across its portfolio of over 100 brands. Additionally, PepsiCo is accused of misleading the public regarding its efforts to combat plastics pollution.

The harmful effects of plastic pollution are not to be underestimated. As plastic breaks down over time, it can contaminate drinking water sources and contribute to various health problems. Considering this, James emphasized that “all New Yorkers have a basic right to clean water.” She added that PepsiCo’s irresponsible packaging and marketing practices put Buffalo’s water supply, environment, and public health at risk.

PepsiCo responded by stating their commitment to reducing plastic usage and promoting effective recycling. The Purchase, New York-based company highlighted its partnerships with stakeholders nationwide as part of endeavors to improve recycling infrastructure and raise consumer awareness regarding responsible recycling practices.

Apart from their flagship cola brand, PepsiCo owns various well-known labels like Cheetos, Cracker Jacks, Doritos, Fritos, Gatorade, Lay’s, Lipton, Mountain Dew, Ocean Spray, Quaker Oats Company (Quaker), Ruffles, and Tostitos.

The lawsuit highlights concerns about reproductive organ dysfunction and increased cancer rates observed in animals exposed to certain plastic additives and microplastics. Researchers warn that similar effects could be seen in humans. Microplastics, small particles produced through plastic degradation, contribute to this threat.

Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges that PepsiCo has deceived consumers by announcing targets to reduce non-recycled plastic usage in its packaging while actually increasing its use of such materials.

The legal action against PepsiCo seeks multiple outcomes, including an order for the company to halt practices deemed a nuisance, address contamination issues caused by plastic waste, and pay for damages resulting from pollution. Additionally, the lawsuit aims to institute a requirement for the Buffalo region, mandating warnings on single-use plastic packaging highlighting their potential for pollution and associated health and environmental risks.

Environmental advocates view this lawsuit as a significant step forward in the battle against plastic waste. It serves as a potential template for other states, counties, and municipalities seeking to take similar action against plastics producers. Judith Enck, president of advocacy group Beyond Plastics and former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator during the Obama administration, asserts that companies should proactively reduce their plastic pollution to avoid legal repercussions like those faced by PepsiCo.

Connecticut and Minnesota have also pursued litigation regarding plastics-related issues. They specifically accuse companies of falsely marketing bags as recyclable despite the inability to recycle these items within state facilities. Additionally, California has launched an investigation into the role played by fossil fuel and petrochemical industries in contributing to plastics pollution.

In response to these legal developments, shares of PepsiCo closed lower at $167.25 after trading down 86 cents on NASDAQ.

This lawsuit serves as a wake-up call for businesses across various sectors. As concerns about environmental pollution continue to grow worldwide, it is imperative that organizations prioritize sustainable practices and actively work towards reducing their ecological footprint.

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