plastic shopping bag
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More and more, the courts are being used to drive smaller eco-friendly and humane companies out of business. At risk is our access to humane and eco-friendly products.

ChicoBag Company makes easy-to-carry reusable bags because they know how devastating disposable plastic shopping bags are. Their advertising focuses primarily on the importance of using recyclables and uses information documented by respected sources to back its claims. Their award for trying to do the right thing is a lawsuit against them by three of the largest manufacturers of disposable plastic shopping bags.

Hilex Poly Company, LLC, Superbag Operating, LTD., and Advance Polybag, Inc. claim that ChicoBag has "irreparably harmed" their businesses. They're claiming that little ChicoBag is making false advertising claims and that their existence is unfair competition.

So, now we have the specter of enormous environmentally destructive corporations banding together to swat a tiny competitor for having the gall to try to help the environment and tell the truth. In their lawsuit, Hilex, Superbag, and Advance Polybag complain specifically about these claims made by ChicoBag. Following each claim is ChicoBag's source for the statement:
  • "A reusable bag needs only to be used eleven times to have a lower environmental impact than using eleven disposable bags." Source: EPA

  • "Only one percent of plastic bags are recycled." Source: EPA

  • "Somewhere between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year." Source: National Geographic

  • "The world's largest landfill can be found floating between Hawaii and San Francisco. Wind and sea currents carry marine debris from all over the world to what is now known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This 'landfill' is estimated to be twice the size of Texas and thousands of pounds of our discarded trash, mostly plastics." Source: National Geographic

  • "Each year hundreds of thousands of sea birds and marine life die from ingestible plastics mistaken for food." Source: Los Angeles Times
ChicoBag's Response

In response, ChicoBag states:
Interestingly, ChicoBag is not the original publisher of the disputed statements. This information has been used in hundreds of publications, news stories and websites over many years. The ChicoBag Company is one of the few organizations that actually provides documented sources for the facts they use on their website.
Andy Keller, the inventor and president of ChicoBag, states in response to the lawsuit:
Because of this, I don't think this lawsuit is really about the facts, I believe it is simply a way for the industry to squash the competition and scare all of us into silence
Andy has created a humorous character and costume called the Bag Monster, which he and others wear to inform and entertain about the issues related to pollution. To the right is a brief video of the Bag Monster at a Santa Monica government meeting:

They're Suing Local Governments, Too.

Not only is ChicoBag being sued by these soulless corporations, local governments that are trying to ban the use of disposable plastic bags are also being sued! The corporations have set up a front group called Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, and it's been suing communities across California, including Manhattan Beach, Oakland, and Marin County, for opting to outlaw disposable plastic bags!

This might be laughable, except that the people of those communities must finance the court cases and the bans against disposable plastic bags are delayed, resulting in that much more pollution that is destroying the earth, our Gaia. Manhattan Beach has won, but it cost them to fight. The city of Oakland and Marin County have been forced to delay their disposable plastic bag bans pending the lawsuits.

Evasion of SLAPP Laws: Avoidance of Lawsuit Where ChicoBag Exists

ChicoBag is located in Chico, California, a town in the north-central part of the state. The lawsuit filed was filed against them in South Carolina. Aside from the difficulty faced by a small company in responding to a lawsuit filed on the opposite side of the country, there's another reason for the choice. Most states, California included, have SLAPP laws in place.

These are, effectively, laws intended to stop large well-financed companies and people from filing frivolous lawsuits against those who may not be able to defend against them. According to the California Anit-SLAPP Project, Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs), are protection against lawsuits "filed against people or organizations because they have exercised their First Amendment right to petition the government or speak out".

South Carolina offers no such protection. Therefore, ChicoBag has little choice but to fight the court case or go out of business. Fortunately, it appears that they intend to fight.

Misuse of the Court System

More and more, the courts are being used to drive smaller eco-friendly and humane companies out of business. No only is ChicoBag being sued, but Seventh Generation, which advertises that their products are environmentally preferable to ones that rape the land (my terminology, not theirs), is being sued by Clorox and Procter and Gamble, both multinational corporations.

There is little truth to the concept that competition even exists in today's marketplace. Multinational corporations use any means they can dream up to strike out at small competitors. The losers are not only the small companies, but also us, the people. We are losing the right to purchase quality products that treat the earth right.

The Importance of Reusable Bags

A simple thing like choosing to reuse bags when we shop, rather than take and toss disposables matters. The video below is a short TED Talk that shows clearly what's at stake:

We recycle "diddly point squat" of our plastics.

If you'd like to learn more about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and the importance of reusable bags, then take a look at ChicoBag's Learn the Facts page.