San Mateo County

Suit Aims to Hold ‘Big Plastic' Companies Responsible For Pollution

Hundreds of plastic bottles in a pile.
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A Berkeley-based environmental group filed a lawsuit Wednesday in San Mateo County Superior Court that aims to take on big corporations that pollute the world with plastic.

The suit by the Earth Island Institute may be the first of its kind to try to hold large firms, such as The Clorox Company, The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, Crystal Geyser Water Company and others, responsible for plastic pollution.

Earth Island Institute has filed the suit on behalf of projects it is sponsoring and on its own behalf. The institute's goals include protecting oceans, coasts and marine life.

Josh Floum, president of the institute's board of directors, said that projects the institute sponsors are being impeded by giant multinational corporations.

"These plastics peddlers knew that our nation's disposal and recycling capabilities would be overrun, and their products would end up polluting our waterways," Floum alleged in a statement.

Floum said the suit aims to stop the big firms from putting more non-recyclable plastics into the economy, end deceptive labeling and force the companies to clean up the mess they've made.

He said that big plastic producers can best afford to clean up the plastic mess because they're so profitable.

The mess appears to be harming humans and wildlife.

A study by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute found that small marine mammals are ingesting microplastics and introducing them into the food chain that feeds Californians.

The average person ingests about 5 grams of plastic each week, which is an amount roughly the size of a credit card, according to the complaint. Also, when the plastics enter the ocean and break apart, they release toxic chemicals that alter the chemical composition of the ocean, the complaint says.

Earth Island Institute's general counsel Sumona Majumdar said these big corporations want people to believe that all of the plastic being produced is being recycled.

"It's a misinformation campaign, similar to those used by Big Tobacco, Big Oil, and Big Pharma," she said.

Neither The Clorox Company, based in Oakland, nor The Coca-Cola Company was immediately available for comment. Other companies mentioned as defendants in the suit are Nestle USA, Mars, Danone North America, Mondelez International, Colgate-Palmolive Company and The Procter & Gamble Company.

Earth Island Institute is also seeking compensatory damages, legal fees and costs of suit.

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