New York State Sues PepsiCo Over Plastic Pollution

Nov. 16, 2023
Attorney general claims the company is not doing enough to prevent trash from entering the Buffalo River, which supplies the city of Buffalo with drinking water.

New York state’s attorney general filed suit against PepsiCo on Nov. 16 holding the company responsible for the largest share of the litter that winds up in the Buffalo River, which supplies the city of Buffalo with drinking water.

Attorney General Letitia James – yes, the same one taking Donald Trump to trial -- accuses the company of making a the plastic bottles and wrappers that wind up in the river and not doing enough to prevent them from being discarded.

“No company is too big to ensure that their products do not damage our environment and public health,” said James in a statement carried by several media. “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.”

Litter from many sources ends up in the Buffalo River, but the attorney general's office said a 2022 survey named PepsiCo as the single largest identifiable contributor to its plastic waste, according to Associated Press. Of the 1,916 pieces of plastic waste containing an identifiable brand, 17.1% were produced by PepsiCo, according to the survey. McDonald's came in a distant second.

Furthermore, concern is growing that some discarded plastic breaks down into tiny particles called microplastics, which are small enough to be ingested. Microplastics have been found in Lake Erie, which supplies Buffalo's drinking water, as well as in fish species that are known to inhabit the lake, according to the lawsuit.

PepsiCo, which is headquartered in Purchase, N.Y., produces and packages at least 85 different beverage brands including Gatorade and Pepsi products, and at least 25 snack food brands that mostly come in plastic containers meant to be thrown away or recycled once they are empty, according to Associated Press.

About the Author

Dave Fusaro | Editor in Chief

Dave Fusaro has served as editor in chief of Food Processing magazine since 2003. Dave has 30 years experience in food & beverage industry journalism and has won several national ASBPE writing awards for his Food Processing stories. Dave has been interviewed on CNN, quoted in national newspapers and he authored a 200-page market research report on the milk industry. Formerly an award-winning newspaper reporter who specialized in business writing, he holds a BA in journalism from Marquette University. Prior to joining Food Processing, Dave was Editor-In-Chief of Dairy Foods and was Managing Editor of Prepared Foods.

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