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New York Attorney General announces lawsuit against PepsiCo

New York Attorney General Letitia James cites PepsiCo for causing environmental and public harm.
Angela Caico
New York Attorney General Letitia James cites PepsiCo for causing environmental and public harm.

New York Attorney General Letitia James visited Canalside on Wednesday to announce a lawsuit against PepsiCo for its contribution to Buffalo’s plastic pollution problem.

The lawsuit, which is the result of research conducted by Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper and the Attorney General’s Office, accuses the company of being one of the largest contributors to this issue both locally and nationally. It seeks to require PepsiCo to establish an abatement fund, engage in recycling efforts, and to invest in scientific research to change the composition of its products.

Buffalo Niagara Water Keeper Executive Director Jill Jedlicka says that PepsiCo products accounted for over 17 percent of the trash they collected last year.

“The amount of single-use plastic pollution continues to grow, as leadership from mega-producers continues to disappear, or their responsibilities deflected to others," said Jedlicka. "For nearly two decades, Buffalo Niagara Water Keeper has coordinated annual shoreline sweeps and the modernizing of our waterways, and without a doubt, it is the disposable single-use plastic containers and wrappers that constitute the majority of items we collect.”

Recent testing has also revealed the presence of microplastics in the city’s drinking water supply and in the Lake Erie fish population.

Pepsi is also accused of lying about its efforts to correct the problem. Pepsi claimed it was taking steps to reduce its use of non-recycled plastic during production. However, its usage has been increasing each year. Last year it increased by 11 percent. James says that although everyone has a responsibility to keep the environment clean, first we need to tackle the source.

“The executives of PepsiCo have already admitted that this is a major problem, but have failed to do anything about it, and each and every time that they’ve announced that they’re going to set certain goals – they haven’t," said James. "Each and every time when they talk about recycling, the reality is that the vast majority of their products are not recyclable.”

The announcement has also raised questions about the New York State Returnable Container Act, also known as the New York Bottle Bill. The bill was established in 1982 to combat littering and promote recycling. Many people are calling for the bill to be updated with a bottle deposit increase from five cents to ten cents, stricter enforcement of recycling laws, and an expansion of the list of accepted containers.

According to the Associated Press, PepsiCo said in a statement that it was serious about “plastic reduction and effective recycling.” It didn't directly comment on the lawsuit's claim that it was legally responsible for keeping garbage out of the Buffalo River.

State Senator Tim Kennedy, who recently announced his candidacy for Congress, says that the Bottle Bill will be revisited at legislative sessions starting in January.
Copyright 2023 WBFO. To see more, visit WBFO.

Angela Caico