The lawsuit contends that PepsiCo should be responsible for cleaning up litter produced by it and its subsidiaries.
New York Attorney General Letitia James has filed a lawsuit against PepsiCo Inc., alleging that it has polluted the environment and endangered public health by mass-producing single-use plastic bottles.
According to CBS News, the state’s complaint alleges that PepsiCo and its subsidiaries—including Frito-Lay Inc., and Frito-Lay North America Inc.—should be held responsible for mitigating pollution caused by their own products.
The lawsuit cites several examples of PepsiCo-related litter, including the wrapper and bottle-lined shores of the Buffalo River. This waste, CBS News notes, has been implicated in the contamination of Buffalo’s water supply.
“No company is too big to ensure that their products do not damage our environment and public health,” James said. “All New Yorkers have a basic right to clean water, yet PepsiCo’s irresponsible packaging and marketing endanger Buffalo’s water supply, environment, and public health.”
“No one should have to worry about plastics in their drinking water, plastic garbage littering their scenic riverfront, or plastic pollution harming wildlife,” James said. “I will never hesitate to take on major corporations that put the health and safety of everyday New Yorkers and our planet at risk.”
James’s complaint notes that PepsiCo products were the single-most significant contributor to plastic waste in the Buffalo River. Of the 1,916 pieces of plastic waste still containing an identifiable brand, 17.1% were produced by PepsiCo and its subsidiaries.
Similar microplastic have also been found in fish species that inhabit both Lake Erie and the Buffalo River. Exposure to some of these chemicals, which are now present in the city of Buffalo’s drinking water supply, are associated with a wide range of adverse health effects.
James’s website reprinted several supportive statement from local officials, politicians, and advocacy organizations.
“We’re the city of good neighbors,” Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown said in a statement. “We not only strive to be good to each other, but we want to be good to the environment around us. I thank Attorney General James for taking bold actions to protect our environment against threats. I also thank her for her partnership in my administration’s goal to create a greener and climate-friendly city.”
New York state Sen. Andrew Gounardes later told the B.B.C. that PepsiCo has a legal responsibility to design its packages and products in a way that minimizes foreseeable harms to human health.
“Based on the allegations that were filed yesterday in the Attorney General’s lawsuit, PepsiCo has bene advertising itself as a very environmentally conscious company,” Gounardes said. “And yet, the reality is, according to the Attorney General, they’ve actually not been decreasing, but increasing their use of plastics.”
“But the company has a responsibility if they’re going to be an actor in this marketplace,” he added. “They have to make sure that [their] products are not going to cause harm to people.”