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
- “Each year hundreds of thousands of sea birds and marine life
die from ingestible plastics mistaken for food.” Source: L.A.
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."
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
Advocacy Programs: http://bagmonster.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org