The statistics on plastic bags have led to a controversy that heads for the courts in 2011. Three plastic bag manufacturers have filed a lawsuit against ChicoBag for unfair competition, contesting the recycling numbers that ChicoBag uses in advertising its reusable bags.
Battle Over Numbers
The question is: how bad are plastic bags? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, the percentage of plastics making up the municipal solid waste stream has risen from one percent in 1960 to more than 12 percent currently. The figure for recycling in the category of bags, sacks and wraps is quoted as 9 percent.
ChicoBag uses the recycling number of one percent. A spokesman for the Hilex Poly Co., Superbag Co. and Advance Polybag Inc., the three plaintiffs seeking damages, cites that 11.8 percent are recycled. But the wraps in that figure include shrink wraps and plastic coverings on products. Therein lies the battle. The federal Lanham Act prohibits false and misleading advertising,
The defendant Andy Keller, founder and inventor of ChicoBag as well as a founding member of the Reusable Bag Association, also shows up at various events as the Bag Monster, covered in 500 plastic bags, said to be the average number used yearly by Americans. As of 2008, ChicoBag introduced rePETe products made with recycled materials.
Pro and Con Interests
The battle over plastic bags is not limited to this particular case. The city council of Belmont, California is reportedly considering a ban on single-use plastic bags, a fee for paper grocery bags and a ban on use of styrofoam containers by food vendors.
The Plastic Pollution Coalition describes itself as an “alliance of individuals, organizations and businesses working together to stop plastic pollution and its toxic impacts on humans, animals and the environment.” The coalition promotes the four R’s of sustainable living: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
On the other side, we have the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, formed in 2008 to “inform decision-makers and the public about the environmental impacts of plastic bags, paper bags and reusable bags.” They believe that “myths, misinformation and exaggerations” surround this subject.
Going beyond plastic bags, the National Green Pages is a directory from the Green America organization that lists businesses committed to “sustainable, socially just principles, including the support of sweatshop-free labor, organic farms, fair trade, and cruelty-free products.”
It seems the plastics issue will continue to be a hot topic for some time to come.