Plastic Bag Makers Do a Reversal in Reverse Greenwash Suit


In previous posts here and here I wrote about a lawsuit in which plastic bag manufacturers Hilex Poly Company (Hilex), Superbag, and API Enterprises took issue with certain statements made by ChicoBag, the popular reusable bag maker.

The accusations could be called reverse greenwashing, as they involved allegedly false or misleading statements not about environmental benefits, but about the negative environmental impact of certain products.

Specifically, the plastic bag makers alleged that ChicoBag made false or deceptive claims about the consumption, recycling, and negative environmental impact of plastic bags and has falsely indicated that the claims are substantiated.

ChicoBag countered that 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.

In what ChicoBag and some in the eco-blogosphere are calling victory, Superbag and API agreed to dismiss the case (Superbag-API-Dismissal), and the remaining plaintiff, Hilex, settled with ChicoBag (HilexPoly-Dismissal).

According to ChicoBag’s press release, Hilex has agreed to properly cite recycling statistics and undertake certain measures to reduce windblown litter, and both parties will be more careful and even-handed in their marketing statements.

Some of the settlement terms are:

Both parties will provide citations and dates for all facts and statistics on any web page or advertising;

Hilex will include a statement on its products “Tie Bag in Knot Before Disposal” and statements on its web site about ways to prevent windblown litter;

ChicoBag will keep updates about some of the statements at issue in the suit up on its web site;

ChicoBag will not cite any archived EPA web sites; and

ChicoBag will inform visitors to its Learn the Facts web page that plastic retail carryout bags are only a subset of plastic bags in ocean debris reports.

Keller said the settlement marks two wins for the environment:  “First, Hilex Poly can no longer inflate plastic bag recycling numbers by including non-bag wrap and plastic film.  And they have also agreed to acknowledge that plastic bags can become windblown litter despite proper disposal and to better educate the public.”

About Author

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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