Plastic Pollution
May 24 2011

Big plastic sues reusable bag company, story at 11.

by Bill Hickman

File this one under, hmmm, what are they thinking?  Surfrider loves reusable bags and ChicoBag has some of the best around.  Their compact yet durable design has been a hit with many Surfrider Chapters that have ordered them for their local efforts.  In addition, ChicoBag is the creator of the 'Bag Monster', which they generously loan out to Surfrider Chapters and other groups looking to raise awareness about plast bag impacts to the environment.  Just last month the Bag Monster made an appearance in Ventura County...

Back to the silly lawsuit.  Here's more info from a press release that ChicoBag recently sent out...

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:NationalGeographic
•    “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, 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. Click Here to go deeper and read Andy's 'History of the Plastic Bag' expose.