Plastic Bag Giants Sue Reusable Bag Entrepreneur for Loss of Sales

Watch for more of this kind of stuff as green prducts and technologies grow! And along the same vein, did anyone else note that Saudia Arabia brought up the idea of their being entitled to compensation for lost revenue in any kind of a global oil consumption control agreement? I think this came up at Copenhagen. Is there an Arabic word for "chutzpah"?

Unedited press realease below:

Chico, California - The ChicoBag Company, a reusable bag company, has announced it is the sole defendant in a lawsuit filed by Hilex Poly Company, LLC, Superbag Operating, LTD., and Advance Polybag, Inc.; three of the largest domestic manufacturers of disposable single-use plastic bags, on the grounds that ChicoBag has "irreparably harmed" their business.

The plaintiffs point to ChicoBag's Learn The Facts Page which provides well sourced and widely accepted information regarding the consumption and environmental impacts of single-use plastics, accusing ChicoBag of false advertising and unfair competition. The plaintiffs specifically take issue with the following statements in their lawsuit:

  • "A reusable bag needs only to be used eleven times to have a lower environmental impact than using eleven disposable bags." Source: EPA
  • "Only one percent of plastic bags are recycled." Source: EPA
  • "Somewhere between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year." Source: National Geographic
  • "The world's largest landfill can be found floating between Hawaii and San Francisco. Wind and sea currents carry marine debris from all over the world to what is now known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This 'landfill' is estimated to be twice the size of Texas and thousands of pounds of our discarded trash, mostly plastics." Source: National Geographic
  • "Each year hundreds of thousands of sea birds and marine life die from ingestible plastics mistaken for food." Source: L.A. Times

Interestingly, ChicoBag is not the original publisher of the disputed statements. This information has been used in hundreds of publications, news stories and websites over many years. The ChicoBag Company is one of the few organizations that actually provides documented sources for the facts they use on their website.

ChicoBag was not aware the EPA, for example, had removed their article. Upon notice, ChicoBag immediately updated its website to reflect updated sources, and continues to promote what the industry itself admits - that we can reduce consumption, that many more bags could and should be recycled, and that plastic bags don't belong in our oceans, streams, hanging in trees, strewn along our highways, or in the food chain of animals. "Because of this, I don't think this lawsuit is really about the facts, I believe it is simply a way for the industry to squash the competition and scare all of us into silence," stated Andy Keller, inventor of ChicoBag and president of the company.

Keller is a leader in the movement to reduce single-use bag waste and is well known for his "Bag Monster®" character and environmentally themed blog, Each Bag Monster costume is decked out with 500 plastic bags, a walking ball of bags representing the average number of single-use bags an American uses annually. "The Bag Monster makes people laugh and realize how many bags they use. Most people are shocked by the Bag Monster and quickly realize they can use significantly less" says Keller. While the Bag Monster is not specifically mentioned in the lawsuit, its success may have made Keller a target of the industry.

The lawsuit against Keller's company was filed in South Carolina, a state that has no anti-SLAPP laws. A SLAPP suit (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) is intended to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.

In an effort to understand how this lawsuit fits into the larger strategy of the plastics industry, Keller began investigating the history of industry's litigation tactics, and uncovered a long and largely untold story of conflict between the public and the now ubiquitous plastic bag. In a recent blog post, Keller published his discovery, helping to put this most recent lawsuit into context.

Keller found that lawsuits and lobbyists are not new to the plastics industry. In fact, in 2007, these same plaintiffs effectively stopped the financially strapped City of Oakland from moving forward with their plan to phase out single-use plastic bags. As public awareness grew, the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition was formed with membership including Hilex Poly. Thus far, the coalition has filed lawsuits against the communities of Marin County, Palo Alto, Manhattan Beach, and Los Angeles County.

In response to the industry tactics, Keller stated: "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. They have even funded and promoted 'scientific' studies questioning the safety and efficacy of reusable bags, fueling sensational news stories across the country, presumably aimed to slow the growth of the reusable bag industry. Sadly, this lawsuit will cost millions and is a complete waste of money. If the plastics industry spent a fraction of the money they have spent on lawyers and lobbyists, actually addressing the legitimate environmental issues, perhaps they wouldn't have to rely on desperate attacks on small business."

Industry strategy aside, the lawsuit alleges that ChicoBag is responsible for lost sales and has caused irreparable harm to their business. While ChicoBag denies it is the cause, it may be true that these single-use bag companies are losing business. In the 2009 U.S. International Trade Commission's Report, the shipments of U.S. produced bags decreased 2% (from 66.5 to 64.4%) between 2007 and 2008. However, shipments of single-use plastic bags from foreign countries into the U.S. increased by 2% (from 33.5 to 35.6%) during that same time period.

Mr. Keller went on to comment, "If these figures are accurate, (and the plastic bag manufacturers themselves depend on these numbers), then perhaps these bag manufacturers should look to foreign manufacturers and their own business practices, not ChicoBag, as the reasons for lower revenues."
About ChicoBagâ¢

In 2004, ChicoBag founder Andy Keller took a trip to his local landfill after spending the day landscaping his backyard. He was horrified by how many single-use bags filled the scene. Plastic bags blanketed the landscape in a thin mix of white and beige plastic. Keller vowed to kick his single-use bag habit. Inspired, Andy dropped a few bucks on a secondhand sewing machine and began sewing what would ultimately become the first ChicoBag. Now, ChicoBag is an industry leader in the reusable bag movement and a leading innovator of compact reusable bags and packs that easily stuff into an integrated pouch.

For more information and updates on the lawsuit, visit
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Have just linked to this story via Facebook. As word gets out, I'll bet ChicoBags will see an uptick in sales. Nyah nyah, PBGs. Obviously you guys have never about David with his slingshot made out of repurposed PET bottles.

What a good idea!! Perhaps Australia's woolgrowers could sue just about everyone because cotton and synthetics have replaced most former uses of Australian wool.

I'm pretty sure the heirs and successors of all those buggy whip manufacturers and typewriter repair services could do the same for the loss of their former markets.

The list is endless.

Might I add that, where I live, free supply of lightweight single use bags is prohibited by law.

You have to *buy* a bio-degradable or a multi-use bag if you don't want to bring your own or carry your purchases in your pockets.

Living about a 100km from adelady I would like to add to her remarks by noting that the recent laws enforcing the replacement of single use bags by cheap [around $1 each and about $2 for foil lined ones for cold storage] multi use recycled bags has been readily, one may even suggest 'enthusiastically', adopted by the one and a half million or so people of our state.
Despite some initial misgivings and gloom and doom from some there has been a remarkably smooth and seamless change in the habits of shoppers and shops and shoppers have accepted the change and our rubbish dumps and environment generally are much netter as a result.
And it's cheaper too.

By hannah's dad (not verified) on 31 May 2011 #permalink

I am appalled - I have posted details on my blog and concluded with the following message to the reader:

If you are not yet regularly using a reusable bag I suggest you train yourself to think "I am delighted to dedicate this disposable bit of plastic to the future wealth of the poor oil barons who might starve if I cared about the environment." If you feel can't do this perhaps next time you will remember to use a reusable bag.

We need a South Carolina based lawyer to comment on this.1)how can a CA-based company be sued in a state where it has no commercial presence? 2)suppose CB loses. If I were on that jury I might award $1 in real damages, especially if it would prevent appeal by the "winner". 3)suppose CB countersues in CA, claiming harm caused by the lawsuit itself. Chance of winning more $$ in CA than losing in SC?

Someone needs to contact the assn of paper bag makers so they can sue the plastic bag assn for taking what used to be their sole market.

You have to be kidding me. Plastic bag companies have turned the ocean into a toxic waste dump and it's *Chico Bags who get sued?? I'm speechless. This lawsuit should not even be entertained.

To answer some of Roland's questions . . . I'm not a South Carolina lawyer, but you don't need to be to respond to these particular questions. Question 1) This is simplified, but it gets the point across. To sue a company in a certain state, that company has to have some sort of presence in that state, better known as "minimal contacts." ChicoBag doesn't just sell bags in California, it sells them all over the United States through the internet. It reaches out and does business in South Carolina. Because someone in South Carolina can get on their website and buy their bags, they're deemed to have enough contact with the state to be sued there. Basically the plastics companies forum shopped to get a state favorable to their view. Question 2) Yes, a jury could award damages of one dollar. An appeal could still happen if their lawyers find some kind of legal technicality in the proceedings to exploit. And in some states the winner can appeal if they feel the amount of damages was incorrect. Question 3) You can't countersue in a separate state. Cross and counterclaims have to be bundled with the original suit. The best ChicoBag could do is file a suit of their own against the plastics companies in California and (assuming this is in the federal court system rather than state, which is most likely) hope that it's not thrown out on issue or claim preclusion. These are basically civil court's version of double jeopardy and in place to keep the same issues and cases from being litigated over and over and over between the same parties.

Hilarious! They think they can sue to fix their problem of selling plastic bags. Come on people....litigation just ties up the courts...come out with your own eco bag and compete - but to sue? How stupid. It will backfire. So now let's talk about making fast food chains pay a huge fee when they open a new restaurant unless they control their one shot use garbage...we have to take control over the garbage for sure!

Very little of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch comes from plastic bags. I think they are a much bigger problem in coastal areas.

That said, this lawsuit is total nonsense. And good for ChicoBag for manufacturing reusable bags.

By giovannni da procida (not verified) on 03 Jun 2011 #permalink

I'm creeped out over how dirty these recycled bags are. I've watched people put them on the ground in parking lots, place them in dirty trunks and then they are going to place them in the grocery counter to get filled? My grocery item just got place on that spot. Ugh.

I use recycled bags and get paper bag and plastic bags from the grocery store. The paper bags become my kitchen trash bag. The plastic bags get uses for bathroom trash bags and picking up doggie poo. If I didn't get these bags from the grocery store, I'd have to buy them anyway.

It's a shame, seems these days companies don't innovate, they sue their competitors into oblivion.

Google, Torrent, the documentary, "Who Stole The Electric Car". Study it. Then look up the Toyota RAV 4 EV. Where did it go? Now look at the 'Hush Up" by corporate news media going on over the Ge Mk5, American designed reactor, and the diaster in Fuckoshima, unfolding as we speak. Now turn your attention to the folks at the gas-pumps in America, paying taxes for the war to liberate the oil in Iraq, and paying full, world price to fill their tanks, both - no recompense, not even for the sacrifice of even lives from the corporatists. Remeber, now-a-days, in the 'democracy' of America, even the judges are bought and sold like commodities, same for the politicians - just 'mouth-pieces' paid, professional liars, puppets of the corpocracy. Watch closely now, as the reality of the U.S.A. comes to fore, even through the careful smoke screens of the propaganda machine. Watch as the true America shows its color and corporations are protected once again over and above the interests of the people and the very environment they live in. America, world's largest debtor nation, in all history! Proverbs,22:7! You were so warned!

We 'reuse' the plastic grocery bags when scooping kittie doo out of the litter box. I should switch to something else I'm sure, but it would be nice if some bags could be both "one use" and also disposable. Paper bags I suppose, but the plastic Kroger bags are just so darn 'right-size.'

I'll keep looking around now that I have time, but if anyone has tips for eco friendly cat supplies I'll be happy to hear them.

Great job. They think they can sue to fix their problem of selling plastic bags. If I didn't get these bags from the grocery store, I'd have to buy them anyway. It reaches out and does business in South Carolina. Because someone in South Carolina can get on their website and buy their bags, they're deemed to have enough contact with the state to be sued there. Basically the plastics companieâs forum shopped to get a state favorable to their view. Question 2) Yes, a jury could award damages of one dollar.

Plastic garbage bags are real popular since they are so convenient to use. You fill up the bag with garbage and throw it out. It is taken and thrown into landfills. These plastic garbage bags that are thrown into landfills help to fill up the landfill. The garbage bags used to hold garbage do not break down and they become more garbage for the landfill. Many communities are having their residence put garbage into large paper bags. These large bags can hold more garbage then a plastic garbage bag can and they will break down and make compost instead of an unnatural substance.

I appreciate it. I'm often telling my cashier that I'd rather bulk up my bags... With the way some of them bag, I can fit 5 "bags" worth of products into one plastic bag and 10 "bags" of stuff into one reusable bag. Its heavy, but it sure beats hauling around 10 doubled plastic bags with 2 items each... such waste! Having extra plastic bags around to pick up after my dog is nice, but vegetable bags from the grocery work just as well for that purpose.
printed plastic bags