Earth Island Institute, an environmental organization, filed suit in California state court in San Mateo County against Crystal Geyser Water Co., Clorox Co., Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc., Nestle USA Inc., Mars Inc., Danone North America, Mondelez International Inc., Colgate-Palmolive Co. and Procter & Gamble Co. Earth Island alleged that the recycling symbol on the defendants' products misinformed consumers as to what would happen to those products once placed in a recycling bin and sought relief under several California state laws, including the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act.
One key issue that arose early on was whether the case should be heard in state court or federal court — with the California district court determining the case should be heard in California state court where it was originally filed. By allowing this case to proceed in state court, where claims tied to plastic pollution, advertising of recyclability and consumer fraud will be determined by California state law, it potentially indicates that plastic product manufacturers and sellers could be exposed to different thresholds and different standards of liability in each state.
While these cases discussed are in their infancy, plastic product manufacturers and sellers can still take steps to prepare. Being familiar with the Federal Trade Commission's Green Guides, keeping up to date on state laws regarding consumer protection and recyclability of plastics, and working with your attorney to evaluate your own claims of recyclability with a critical eye can help reduce potential liability down the road.
Marc Rollo is chair of the environmental law department and the petroleum industry practices group at Archer in Voorhees, New Jersey. He can be reached at [email protected].
Alexis Way is an associate in Archer's business litigation group. Contact Alexis at [email protected]