Soft drinks giant sued by state of New York / Attorney general alleges company is major plastics polluter of Buffalo River
PepsiCo (Purchase, New York, USA; is being sued by the state of New York over the issue of single-use plastics pollution in the region.

The lawsuit, initiated by the office of the attorney general (OAG) of New York, alleges that the soft drinks giant “substantially causes public harm in Buffalo, has failed to warn consumers about the potential health and environmental risks of its single-use plastic packaging, and misleads consumers and the public about its efforts to combat plastics pollution”.

Of the plastics pollution found in the Buffalo River in 2022, more than 17% had been produced by PepsiCo (Photo: PepsiCo)

The documentation says that a survey conducted by the OAG of plastics pollution in the Buffalo River and its environs in 2022 found that of the 1,916 pieces of plastic waste collected with an identifiable brand, more than 17% had been produced by PepsiCo. 

“The company’s plastic packaging far exceeded any other source of this identifiable plastic waste along the river, and it was three times more abundant than the next highest contributor,” it added; the next highest contributor was fast-food chain McDonalds.

Related: PepsiCo pledges to double zero-waste packaging by 2030

The OAG said a nationwide study by the environmental group Break Free From Plastic ( had found 2.1 mn items of plastic waste from 2,373 separate collections across the US between 2018 to 2022. “In each year, the study documented PepsiCo as either the number one or number two producer of branded plastic trash collected across the United States,” it added. 

According to the OAG, large quantities of microplastics have been found in the Buffalo River, “and an analysis of those fragments has confirmed the presence of microplastics from snack food wrappers and polymers of the type used in PepsiCo’s plastic beverage bottles and bottle caps”.

Attorney general Letitia James, who is also spearheading a legal case against former US President Donald Trump, said she was asking the court “to require PepsiCo to cease contributing to the public nuisance it is causing in the Buffalo region, remediate the contamination it caused, and identify and implement measures to reduce the quantity of PepsiCo’s plastic packaging entering the Buffalo River”.

The OAG wants to stop PepsiCo from selling or distributing any product in the Buffalo region in single-use plastic packaging that does not contain what it called “an adequate warning”. 

The lawsuit also seeks disgorgement – where parties conducting ‘wrongful acts’ give up profits generated by those activities – as well as civil penalties and what the OAG called ‘restitution’. 

In a statement to US broadcaster CNN, a PepsiCo spokesperson said, “PepsiCo is serious about plastics reduction and effective recycling, and has been transparent in our journey to reduce use of plastics and accelerate new packaging innovation.”

However, according to the lawsuit, “Pepsico’s statements have misled consumers and the public by creating the impression that the company was making meaningful progress towards reducing the use of non-recycled (virgin) plastics in its packaging, but no such progress is being made”. It goes on to state that for the past four years, the drinks giant’s use of virgin plastics has only increased every year. 
20.11.2023 [254031-0]
Published on 20.11.2023

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