The New York attorney general filed a lawsuit against PepsiCo on Wednesday, alleging that the food and beverage company is posing a threat to the environment and deceiving the public about its efforts to eliminate single-use plastic in its packaging.
Attorney General Letitia James stated that her office’s investigation revealed that a significant amount of plastic waste along the Buffalo River originated from PepsiCo products.
Ms. James is seeking unspecified damages and is demanding that the company address the contamination in the Buffalo area caused by its products, reduce the volume of PepsiCo’s plastic packaging entering the river, and discontinue selling or distributing single-use plastic products without “adequate” warning labels in the region.
In a statement, Ms. James voiced her concerns, stating, “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.”
A 2022 survey conducted by the attorney general’s office found high levels of pollution from single-use plastic products in the Buffalo River.
PepsiCo, headquartered in Purchase, N.Y., and known for its snack foods like Lay’s potato chips and Mountain Dew soft drinks, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Like other companies committed to sustainability, PepsiCo has stated its goal of making all packaging “recyclable, compostable, biodegradable, or reusable” by 2025. The company also aims to reduce virgin plastic usage by 50 percent by 2030, compared to 2020.
However, Ms. James’s office alleged that the company has not followed through on these commitments, contributing to a public nuisance and potential health risks for New Yorkers. The office reported that an analysis of approximately 2,000 pieces of trash along the Buffalo River identified PepsiCo products — wrappers, bottles, and chip bags — as the largest contributor, accounting for over 17 percent of the identifiable waste.
Ms. James’s office has been actively pursuing legal action against businesses for violations of environmental and consumer protection laws, including convictions of recycling and cleanup companies for illegal processing and disposal of electronic waste, as well as settlements with other companies over false claims and illegal dumping.
The lawsuit filed against PepsiCo on Wednesday resembles one filed in 2020 in a California court against PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, and other major companies by a state environmental group. The 2020 suit also alleged that Pepsi was contributing to a “nuisance” and misleading consumers through recyclable packaging labeling.