New York, US, Nov 15 (EFE). – The New York State Attorney General’s Office sued the soft drink and snack giant PepsiCo on Wednesday, accusing it of polluting the Buffalo River and the city’s drinking water supply with single-use plastic containers, threatening public health.
It also accuses the company of “misleading” the public about its efforts to combat plastic pollution.
According to statistics included in the legal document, the majority of plastics collected along the banks of the river are bottles, caps and snack wrappers that break down into microplastics, and PepsiCo is the predominant brand identified as producing them.
An agency survey in 2022 collected plastics at 13 points along the Buffalo River and its slopes, it gathered more than 2,600 items with identifiable markings and 17% of them produced by PepsiCo (328), compared to 5.7% for McDonald’s (109) or 4.2% for Hershey (80).
The lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court, seeks to force PepsiCo and its subsidiaries, Frito-Lay Inc. and Frito-Lay North America Inc., to address this contamination.
Microplastics, a byproduct of the degradation of single-use plastic packaging, have been found in the city’s drinking water, on the banks and watershed of the Buffalo River and in draws from Lake Erie near its mouth, as well as in fish from both waters.
In addition, PepsiCo is accused of greenwashing, since the company has promised to reduce the use of non-recycled or virgin plastics in its packaging, while the lawsuit claims that it has instead increased it in the last four years, with an 11% increase in 2022 alone.
A spokesman for the company told EFE that it has been transparent in its efforts to reduce the use of plastics and innovate in packaging, a “complex problem” in which it claimed its collaboration with other actors and with the New York authorities, for example in legislative measures on plastic bottles and producer responsibility.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office said it is seeking compensation for damages, that the company stop and remedy the pollution caused, and that it implement measures to reduce the amount of plastic containers in the Buffalo River.
It also wants it to include “adequate” notices on the containers that inform about the risks of said packaging.
“All New Yorkers have a basic right to clean water, yet PepsiCo’s irresponsible packaging and marketing endanger Buffalo’s water supply, environment, and public health,” prosecutor Letitia James said in the note.
New York-based PepsiCo produces and packages at least 85 different beverage brands and over 25 snacks, most of which come in disposable plastic. EFE