HARTSVILLE, S.C. (Sept. 15, 2 p.m. ET) — A lawsuit that claimed reusable bag manufacturer ChicoBag Co. was making false and misleading statements on its website and in its advertisements about plastic bags has been settled out-of-court.
ChicoBag and plastic bag manufacturer Hilex Poly Co. LLC of Hartsville, S.C., separately announced the resolution of the lawsuit Sept 13.
Under the terms of the settlement, ChicoBag has agreed to provide full citations — including sources and dates — for all facts and statistics on its web pages, its advertisements and other company materials with the exception of labels and hang-tags.
“This settlement is a win for consumers. The use of false and misleading statements is injurious to the marketplace, and this settlement ensures that facts are accurate,” said Mark Daniels, vice president of sustainability for Hilex Poly. “While all parties are entitled to their own opinions [about plastic bags], Hilex Poly believes that everyone should be careful to be accurate in the facts presented.”
ChicoBag, based in Chico, Calif., revised 11 of the 16 claims on their Learn the Facts web page 72 hours after the lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in early April.
As part of the settlement, ChicoBag also agreed not to use outdated data from archived websites of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and to make an undisclosed financial payment to Hilex, Hilex said.
The initial lawsuit had also included plastic bag manufacturers Superbag Corp. and Advance Polybag Inc., but they decided to drop out of the lawsuit.
One of the points of contention in the lawsuit was the recycling rate of plastic bags, with ChicoBag claiming that the plastic bag industry inflated the plastic bag recycling rate significantly by including non-bag plastic wrap and plastic film.
Both EPA and the American Chemistry Council publish recycling rates for plastic film that include plastic wrap, plastic film and plastic bags. There is no specific breakout for plastic bags.
In a statement, ChicoBag said that Hilex had agreed to report a specific recycling rate for plastic bags, and to also print a message on its bags suggesting that users to tie plastic bags into a knot after use to prevent windblown litter, and to further discuss ways to prevent windblown litter on their website.
For its part, ChicoBag said it will inform visitors to its Learn the Facts website that reusable bags should be washed when dirty, and inform consumers that plastic retail carryout bags are only a subset of plastic bags in ocean debris.
“Ultimately, I hope this settlement will encourage Hilex Poly and the rest of the plastic bag industry to refrain from filing any future frivolous lawsuits, stop attacking reusable bags, and instead invest their dollars into reducing unnecessary single-use bag consumption and litter,” said ChicoBag president and founder, Andy Keller, in a statement.
Hilex Poly is the largest plastic bag manufacturer in the U.S., and has aggressively fought proposed plastic bag bans and proposed fees on plastic bags in the U.S. It has 1,250 employees and has put in place 30,000 recycling bins across the U.S., as part of its Bag-2-Bag recycling program that began in 2004.
It also operates a plastic bag recycling plant in the U.S., located in North Vernon, Ind., which, in 2011, is expected to recycle 25 million pounds of plastic films and plastic shopping bags. That's up from 20 million pounds in 2010 and 10 million pounds in 2009.
All the plastic bags, plastic wrap and plastic film recycled by Hilex are reused to make plastic bags.