ChicoBag Responds to Plastic Bag Makers in Reverse Greenwash Suit

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A previous post discussed a recently-filed lawsuit in which plastic bag manufacturers Hilex Poly Company, Superbag, and API Enterprises took issue with certain statements made by ChicoBag, the popular reusable bag maker.

The accusations could be called reverse green washing, as they involve allegedly false or misleading statements not about environmental benefits, but about the negative environmental impact of plastic products.

ChicoBag recently responded, at least in the court of public opinion.

In a press release entitled “Bag Wars: Plastic Bag Giants Sue Reusable Bag Entrepreneur for Loss of Sales (Environmental Community Outraged),” ChicoBag addresses the plastic bag makers’ accusations head on and suggests the suit should be viewed as part of the plastics industry’s strategy of silencing the competition.

The crux of the plastic bag makers’ complaint (Hilex_Complaint) is that ChicoBag has made a number of false or deceptive claims about the consumption, recycling, and negative environmental impact of plastic bags and has falsely indicated that the claims are substantiated.

However, according to the press release, the statements at issue were made by third party sources such as the Environmental Protection Agency, National Geographic, and the Los Angeles Times, and simply repeated by ChicoBag, with attribution, on its web site.

Moreover, Andy Keller, the inventor of ChicoBag and the company’s president, told me that the plastic bag makers’ complaint actually altered the wording of some of the statements.

In particular, while some of the statements actually relate to the environmental impact of plastic products generally, the plastic bag makers inserted the word “bags” into the statements with the result that the complaint falsely presents them as claims about plastic bags.

The press release also notes that litigation is a favored tactic by plastic bag manufacturers and their coalitions and associations such as the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, which has filed suits against the communities of Marin County, Palo Alto, Manhattan Beach, and Los Angeles County.

According to Keller, “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.”

With respect to the current lawsuit, Keller doesn’t think it is really about the facts. Instead, he said, “I believe it is simply a way for the industry to squash the competition and scare all of us into silence.”

Eric Lane is a patent attorney at Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps in San Diego and the author of Green Patent Blog. Mr. Lane can be reached at elane@luce.com.

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Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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