NY State Cracks Down on Plastic Pollution in Rivers

The state of New York is suing PepsiCo—over its single-use plastic packaging that is polluting the Buffalo River. Should beauty brands be worried?

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) filed the lawsuit against PepsiCo, saying that the plastic waste from various Pepsi products in the Buffalo River are causing a public nuisance—threatening both human health and wildlife. The Washington Post reports that her office argues that PepsiCo “misled the public about the effectiveness of its plastic recycling efforts and failed to warn consumers about the health and environmental risks of plastic packaging.

The lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal actions against companies that produce plastic waste. PepsiCo is headquartered in NY. Its brands include Pepsi, Doritos, Cheetos, Mountain Dew, and 7 Up.

James is asking a state court to make PepsiCo clean up the plastic pollution—and add warning labels to products sold in the region. In addition, PepsiCo may be forced to find a solution to reducing the amount of its packaging that ends up in the river.

Why single out PepsiCo in the lawsuit?

The Washington Post explains that James’ office surveyed waste at 13 sites along the Buffalo River in 2022, and plastic from Pepsi products were the most abundant—making up 17% of all the plastic collected with identifiable branding. 

The outcome of the lawsuit could have far-reaching implications for other companies that produce plastic waste—including major players in the beauty industry.

It’s no secret that beauty packaging creates high amounts of plastic waste. According to the University of Connecticut, the bottles, tubes, and containers used annually by the cosmetic industry add up to 120 billion units of plastic packaging—and 70% of this plastic ends up in landfills. Moving away from single-use packaging—and toward refillable packaging—may be a solution for beauty brands. 

In any case, we’ll all be watching this lawsuit closely, waiting to see its outcome.

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