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Press Releases

Settlement Press Release

Media Contacts:

Sierra Norton, ChicoBag Company 530.342.4426 x 242 sierra@chicobag.com
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 13, 2011

Bag Wars | Plastic Bag Giants Superbag and Advance Poly Split from Hilex Poly, Drop Out of Lawsuit Against ChicoBag

Hilex Poly, standing alone, settles case with ChicoBag and agrees to change position on windblown litter and recycling rates.

Chico, Calif. – The ChicoBag Company, a reusable bag company, has announced today that the lawsuit filed against it by Hilex Poly Company, LLC, Superbag Operating, LTD., and Advance Polybag, Inc. – three of the largest domestic manufacturers of disposable single-use plastic bags – has ended. The plastic bag giants, which have also sued municipalities over bag bans or fees, had initiated the suit against ChicoBag alleging that the company’s “Learn the Facts” page, (which contains widely accepted third party statistics regarding the impact of single-use plastic bags on the environment) was false and misleading, and had resulted in ‘irreparable harm’ to their companies. When ChicoBag challenged these three plastic bag companies to back up their allegations and asked for the true recycling rate for plastic bags among other things, Superbag and Advance Polybag provided little in response and subsequently dropped out of the case. Hilex Poly, the lone plaintiff without the support of its peers, agreed to settle the case the trio had brought against ChicoBag.

The lawsuit against ChicoBag was filed in South Carolina, a state that has no anti-SLAPP laws. A SLAPP suit (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) is intended to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. ChicoBag Founder and President Andy Keller presented Hilex Poly with more than 25,000 petition signatures urging them to drop the case collected by Care2, Surfrider Foundation, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Heal the Bay, Earth Resource Foundation, Environmental Working Group, Green Cities California and a number of other grassroots organizations.

In a victory for plastic bag foes and environmentally conscious consumers, the terms of the settlement will likely help the public to be better informed about the real impacts of single-use plastic bags. In a surprising departure from the plastic bag industry’s standard axiom “Bags don’t litter, people do”, Hilex Poly acknowledged the fact that single-use bags can become windblown litter despite proper disposal by agreeing to address this issue on their website, as well as printing a message on their bags informing users to tie the bag in a knot after use to prevent windblown litter. Also in dispute was the percentage of single-use plastic retail carryout bags that are actually recycled, a number that Hilex Poly says to be 12%, while ChicoBag cited 1%, an EPA stat from 2005, which is the most recent recycling rate for bags only. The higher number was reached by counting single-use plastic bags along with other sacks, film and plastic wrap used on pallets. As part of the settlement Hilex Poly agreed to properly cite recycling statistics, which will be much less misleading to the public.

Interestingly, ChicoBag is not the original publisher of the disputed statements at issue in the lawsuit. This information has been used in hundreds of publications, news stories and websites over many years. The ChicoBag Company is one of the few organizations that actually provides documented sources for the facts they use on their website. In the agreement, both Hilex Poly and ChicoBag have agreed to provisions including:

  • Both parties will provide citations and dates for all facts and statistics on any web page or advertising, excluding labels and hangtags. • Hilex Poly agrees that to the extent permitted by customers and in the normal rotation of plate replacement, it will include a statement on its products: “Tie Bag in Knot Before Disposal”
  • Hilex will include statements on a website that discuss ways to prevent windblown litter.
  • ChicoBag will stop any countdown list for Hilex to dismiss the litigation
  • ChicoBag had already made updates to its website in response to Hilex Poly’s early communications, and will keep these in place. {ChicoBag agrees not to cite any archived EPA websites, link to the full NOAA report if utilized in advertising, will inform visitors to chicobag.com that reusable bags should be washed when dirty and inform visitors to its Learn the Facts Page that plastic retail carryout bags are only a subset of plastic bags in ocean debris reports.}

ChicoBag congratulates Hilex Poly for boldly accepting their corporate responsibility to properly inform the public about plastic bag recycling rates, and for breaking step with the plastic bag industry with a new commitment to messages that will hopefully result in combating windblown litter. When announcing the settlement, Andy Keller stated: “What started as a bullying tactic, to silence a critic and stop ChicoBag from achieving our mission of helping humanity kick the single-use bag habit, has morphed into two wins for the environment: First, Hilex Poly can no longer inflate plastic bag recycling numbers by including non-bag wrap and plastic film. And they have also agreed to acknowledge that plastic bags can become windblown litter despite proper disposal and to better educate the public.”

“Ultimately, I hope this settlement will encourage Hilex Poly and the rest of the plastic bag industry to refrain from filing any future frivolous lawsuits, stop attacking reusable bags, and instead invest their dollars into reducing unnecessary single-use bag consumption and litter, while developing solutions to meet the growing consumer demand for more sustainable products.”

The ChicoBag Company, an entrepreneurial mission driven company, is working to help humanity kick the single-use disposable bag habit by offering compact reusable bags and packs that are designed to be unforgettable.

Download the pdf version of this press release

Manhattan Beach Plastic Bag Ban

Statement by ChicoBag Inventor and President Andy Keller on California Supreme Court Decision Upholding City of Manhattan Beach’s Plastic Bag Ban

July 14, 2011, Chico, Calif. – “California’s Supreme Court decision in the Manhattan Beach case shows the courts recognize that the long list of lawsuits being brought by single-use plastic bag corporations are frivolous and unfounded. I hope this will inspire them to reconsider their case against ChicoBag,” said Andy Keller, Inventor and President of ChicoBag.

“The Manhattan Beach case is yet another example of the single-use plastic bag industry’s ill advised strategy to maintain their dying business model in a world where consumers are rapidly rejecting unnecessary waste and the causes of wind-blown litter, and shifting to more sustainable options, like durable, reusable bags. Under the false guise of environmental concerns these litigious giants have filed many suits, including the one pending against my company,” he added.

The ChicoBag Company, an entrepreneurial, mission driven company, is working to help humanity kick the single-use disposable bag habit by offering compact reusable bags and packs that are designed to be unforgettable.

Background on the ChicoBag® Case:

ChicoBag is being sued by three of the largest domestic plastic bag manufacturers: Hilex Poly Company, LLC, Superbag Operating, LTD., and Advance Polybag, Inc. for information ChicoBag has listed on an educational page of their website. Their Learn the Facts page has information regarding single-use disposable bag consumption, recycling rates and general information about environmental impacts of litter and plastic pollution. The three domestic single-use plastic bag manufacturer plaintiffs claim that ChicoBag has caused irreparable harm to their business and are suing on the grounds of false advertising and unfair competition under the Federal Lanham Act and the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act.

Hilex Poly, Superbag, and Advance Polybag also sued the City of Oakland in response to their proposed plastic-bag ordinance. Other lawsuits have been filed by the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, whose membership includes at least one of the companies suing ChicoBag. The Save the Plastic Bag Coalition has sued Marin County, Manhattan Beach, San Jose, Encinitas, and Palo Alto in response to their plastic bag ordinances. They have also filed formal objections with Morgan Hill, Mountain View, Santa Monica, San Diego, Santa Clara County and Palo Alto regarding proposed plastic bag ordinances.


Download this press release as a pdf

Sued By Plastic Press Release

Bag Wars | Plastic Bag Giants Sue Reusable Bag Entrepreneur for Loss of Sales (Environmental Community Outraged)

Chico, California. – The ChicoBag Company, a reusable bag company, has announced it is the sole defendant in a lawsuit filed by Hilex Poly Company, LLC, Superbag Operating, LTD., and Advance Polybag, Inc.; three of the largest domestic manufacturers of disposable single-use plastic bags, on the grounds that ChicoBag has “irreparably harmed” their business.

The plaintiffs point to ChicoBag’s Learn The Facts Page which provides well sourced and widely accepted information regarding the consumption and environmental impacts of single-use plastics, accusing ChicoBag of false advertising and unfair competition. The plaintiffs specifically take issue with the following statements in their lawsuit:

  • “A reusable bag needs only to be used eleven times to have a lower environmental impact than using eleven disposable bags.” Source: EPA
  • “Only one percent of plastic bags are recycled.” Source: EPA
  • “Somewhere between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year.” Source: National Geographic
  • “The world’s largest landfill can be found floating between Hawaii and San Francisco. Wind and sea currents carry marine debris from all over the world to what is now known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This ‘landfill’ is estimated to be twice the size of Texas and thousands of pounds of our discarded trash, mostly plastics.”Source: National Geographic
  • “Each year hundreds of thousands of sea birds and marine life die from ingestible plastics mistaken for food.” Source: L.A. Times

Interestingly, ChicoBag is not the original publisher of the disputed statements. This information has been used in hundreds of publications, news stories and websites over many years. The ChicoBag Company is one of the few organizations that actually provides documented sources for the facts they use on their website.

ChicoBag was not aware the EPA, for example, had removed their article. Upon notice, ChicoBag immediately updated its website to reflect updated sources, and continues to promote what the industry itself admits - that we can reduce consumption, that many more bags could and should be recycled, and that plastic bags don't belong in our oceans, streams, hanging in trees, strewn along our highways, or in the food chain of animals. “Because of this, I don’t think this lawsuit is really about the facts, I believe it is simply a way for the industry to squash the competition and scare all of us into silence,” stated Andy Keller, inventor of ChicoBag and president of the company.

Keller is a leader in the movement to reduce single-use bag waste and is well known for his “Bag Monster®” character and environmentally themed blog, bagmonster.com. Each Bag Monster costume is decked out with 500 plastic bags, a walking ball of bags representing the average number of single-use bags an American uses annually. “The Bag Monster makes people laugh and realize how many bags they use. Most people are shocked by the Bag Monster and quickly realize they can use significantly less” says Keller. While the Bag Monster is not specifically mentioned in the lawsuit, its success may have made Keller a target of the industry.

The lawsuit against Keller’s company was filed in South Carolina, a state that has no anti-SLAPP laws. A SLAPP suit (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) is intended to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.

In an effort to understand how this lawsuit fits into the larger strategy of the plastics industry, Keller began investigating the history of industry’s litigation tactics, and uncovered a long and largely untold story of conflict between the public and the now ubiquitous plastic bag. In a recent blog post, Keller published his discovery, helping to put this most recent lawsuit into context.

Keller found that lawsuits and lobbyists are not new to the plastics industry. In fact, in 2007, these same plaintiffs effectively stopped the financially strapped City of Oakland from moving forward with their plan to phase out single-use plastic bags. As public awareness grew, the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition was formed with membership including Hilex Poly. Thus far, the coalition has filed lawsuits against the communities of Marin County, Palo Alto, Manhattan Beach, and Los Angeles County.

In response to the industry tactics, Keller stated: "Plastic bag manufacturers and their ‘non-profit’ associations, along with their trade association, the American Chemistry Council, have spent millions of dollars trying to persuade voters and elected officials to vote against single-use bag legislation. They have even funded and promoted ‘scientific’ studies questioning the safety and efficacy of reusable bags, fueling sensational news stories across the country, presumably aimed to slow the growth of the reusable bag industry. Sadly, this lawsuit will cost millions and is a complete waste of money. If the plastics industry spent a fraction of the money they have spent on lawyers and lobbyists, actually addressing the legitimate environmental issues, perhaps they wouldn’t have to rely on desperate attacks on small business."

Industry strategy aside, the lawsuit alleges that ChicoBag is responsible for lost sales and has caused irreparable harm to their business. While ChicoBag denies it is the cause, it may be true that these single-use bag companies are losing business. In the 2009 U.S. International Trade Commission’s Report, the shipments of U.S. produced bags decreased 2% (from 66.5 to 64.4%) between 2007 and 2008. However, shipments of single-use plastic bags from foreign countries into the U.S. increased by 2% (from 33.5 to 35.6%) during that same time period.

Mr. Keller went on to comment, "If these figures are accurate, (and the plastic bag manufacturers themselves depend on these numbers), then perhaps these bag manufacturers should look to foreign manufacturers and their own business practices, not ChicoBag, as the reasons for lower revenues."

About ChicoBag®

In 2004, ChicoBag founder Andy Keller took a trip to his local landfill after spending the day landscaping his backyard. He was horrified by how many single-use bags filled the scene. Plastic bags blanketed the landscape in a thin mix of white and beige plastic. Keller vowed to kick his single-use bag habit. Inspired, Andy dropped a few bucks on a secondhand sewing machine and began sewing what would ultimately become the first ChicoBag. Now, ChicoBag is an industry leader in the reusable bag movement and a leading innovator of compact reusable bags and packs that easily stuff into an integrated pouch.

For more information and updates on the lawsuit, visit http://www.suedbyplastic.com
ChicoBag: http://www.chicobag.com
Advocacy Programs: http://bagmonster.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/chicobag
Twitter: http://twitter.com/chicobag

Click here for a pdf version of this press release

If you'd like more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with Andy Keller, please call Sierra Norton at 530-342-4426 or e-mail Sierra at press@chicobag.com

Bag Monster

Frequently Asked Questions

Why did Big Plastic sue ChicoBag?

We believe the lawsuit filed by Hilex Poly Company, LLC, Superbag Operating, LTD., and Advance Polybag, Inc., was part of a larger strategy by the single-use plastics industry to stop the global shift to reusable bags.

As a leading reusable bag brand, ChicoBag has helped millions of people use significantly fewer single-use disposable bags, by solving one simple problem - making reusable bags fun and easy to remember. Company president Andy Keller has also been very public in his effort to educate Americans in regards to the environmental impact of single-use plastic waste. Andy is also well known for his Bag Monster character, a costume made up of 500 plastic bags that represents the average American’s annual plastic bag consumption.

With all that said, the disposable bag manufacturers complained that our ‘Learn The Facts’ page, which provides well-sourced and widely accepted information regarding the consumption and environmental impacts of single-use plastics, was false and misleading. In the Cease and Desist Letter, they disputed the following facts.

  • A reusable bag needs only to be used eleven (11) times to have a lower environmental impact than using (11) disposable bags.
  • Somewhere between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year.
  • Only one (1) percent of plastic bags are recycled.
  • The world’s largest landfill can be found floating between Hawaii and San Francisco and this landfill is estimated to be twice the size of Texas and thousands of pounds of our discarded trash, mostly plastics.
  • Each year hundreds of thousands of sea birds and marine life die from ingested plastics mistaken for food.

Did the lawsuit have merit?

The short answer, by anyone not employed by the plastic bag industry, is no. First, the facts listed above were verified by some of the leading scientists and experts from around the country. The facts we use are conservative, and if anything, actually underestimate the negative impacts of single-use plastics.

Second, the lawsuit against ChicoBag was filed in South Carolina, a state that has no anti-SLAPP laws. A SLAPP suit (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) uses economic disparity and is intended to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. To the dismay of Hilex Poly, Advance Polybag and Superbag LTD, our insurance company, Liberty Mutual, was able to level the playing field a bit.

Was the case dropped?

Yes and no. Three companies sued us. Hilex Poly, Advance Polybag and Superbag LTD. Superbag LTD and Advance Polybag withdrew their accusations and dropped out of the case.

Why did Hilex Poly not drop the suit too?

Superbag LTD and Advance Polybag are apparently able to recognize a mistake and cut their losses. We applaud them for dropping the suit. Hilex Poly, in the spirit of SLAPP suit litigation, indicated they weren’t going to back off without a fight.

Did the case go to trial?

No. We think Hilex Poly would have dropped the case before it went to trial; however, in the end, the mediation and negotiated settlement was a far better option because it yielded two huge wins for environmentally conscious consumers and will likely help the public to be better informed about the real impacts of single-use plastic bags. (See Counter Suit Below)

Did ChicoBag file a counter-suit agasint Hilex Poly?

Given the overall favorable terms of the settlement agreement, a counter-suit was not necessary in order to end the litigation. The terms of the settlement actually obligate Hilex Poly to change their position on litter and recycling rates.

First, the settlement agreement requires Hilex Poly to depart from the plastic bag industry’s standard axiom, “Bags don’t litter, people do”, and acknowledge the fact that single-use bags can become windblown litter despite proper disposal. Hilex must address this issue on their website, as well as print a message on their bags informing users to tie the bag in a knot after use to prevent windblown litter. This simple action significantly lessens a plastic bag’s ability to take flight.

Also in dispute was the percentage of single-use plastic retail carryout bags that are actually recycled. Hilex Poly claims this number to be 12%, while ChicoBag cited 1%, an EPA stat from 2005, which is the most recent recycling rate for bags only. The higher 12% number was reached by counting single-use plastic bags along with other sacks, film and plastic wrap used on pallets. As part of the settlement Hilex Poly agreed to properly cite recycling statistics, which will be much less misleading to the public.

Did ChicoBag pay Hiley Poly damages?

No damages were paid. As clearly stated in the settlement agreement our insurance company, Liberty Mutual, did give Hilex Poly an undisclosed payment. This payment was not for damages and Hilex Poly absolutely deserves no damages. Since Liberty Mutual was paying the legal fees, which had already surpassed $400,000 and was expected to exceed $1 million through trial, their payment was simply a business decision and was not based on the merits of the case. The payment helped create an unprecedented settlement that turned the tables on Hilex Poly, requiring them to significantly change positions on two major issues. (See Above) Hilex Poly had originally demanded a public retraction of the disputed facts, payment for corrective advertising, damages, and disgorgement of profits. In the end, ChicoBag is not required to take any such action.

Did ChicoBag have to remove the disputed facts?

No - ChicoBag did not have to remove any of the disputed facts. Our facts were verified by some of the leading scientists and experts from around the country. The facts we use are conservative, and if anything, only underestimated the negative impacts of single-use plastics. Read more about the disputed facts.

Did the Care2 petition help?

Yes, ChicoBag Founder and President, Andy Keller, presented to Hilex Poly via Twitter a petition with more than 25,000 signatures urging them to drop the case. The signatures were collected by Care2, Surfrider Foundation, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Heal the Bay, Earth Resource Foundation, Environmental Working Group, Green Cities California and a number of other grassroots organizations.