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NY sues beverage giant PepsiCo for alarming reason: 'Endanger[s] … water supply, environment, and public health'

If successful, the suit would force PepsiCo to clean up the river.

If successful, the suit would force PepsiCo to clean up the river.

Photo Credit: iStock

The Buffalo River runs through the city of Buffalo, N.Y., before emptying into Lake Erie, where the city gets its water. The river itself is popular with kayakers, but the Washington Post reports that it's also clogged with plastic trash — and, according to a new lawsuit by the New York attorney general, a huge portion of that trash can be traced back to a single company: PepsiCo.

What's happening?

In 2022, the New York attorney general's office collected waste from 13 points along the Buffalo River. Of the garbage it collected, about 2,000 pieces contained identifiable branding. The company that produced the largest portion of the identifiable trash in the river was PepsiCo, accounting for 17% of the pieces collected, according to the Post.

While soda and snack giant PepsiCo has made some packaging changes in recent years, it is also among the world's top five worst plastic polluters.

"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," New York AG Letitia James said in a statement.

Why is this plastic pollution a problem?

Plastic is getting into everything these days, with the number of plastic pieces in the ocean recently estimated to be 170 trillion. This includes microplastics — tiny fragments of plastic trash that infiltrate drinking water and wind up inside animal and even human tissue.

The long-term health risks of microplastics are still unknown, but they may be linked to cancer and other serious diseases.

Some responsible individuals have tried cleaning up the worst of the trash, but more appears every day. Plus, plastic recycling is much more difficult and less successful than the public has been led to believe. Addressing the manufacturers that use the plastic in the first place might be the most effective way to stop the tide of pollution.

What's being done about the problem?

The New York attorney general has filed a lawsuit to address PepsiCo's plastic pollution, the Post reveals

According to the suit, PepsiCo is liable for the environmental damage its plastic packaging causes. It alleges that the company has caused a public nuisance, threatened the health of humans and wildlife, misled the public about its recycling programs, and failed to warn the public of the health risks associated with its use of plastic.

If successful, the suit would force PepsiCo to clean up the Buffalo River, reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in it in the future, and add warning labels to plastic packaging sold in the state of New York. It could also lead to similar suits against other companies and in other states, which would reduce plastic pollution nationwide.

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