Another consumer products brand owner has been hauled into court over its marketing of plastic bags for use in recyclables collection.
This time, San Francisco resident Patrick Peterson on Feb. 2 filed a complaint against The Glad Products Co. and its parent company, Clorox, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. His lawsuit says the recycling-related marketing claims for the bags are deceptive and violate California and federal laws.
In a statement to Resource Recycling, the company said “the lawsuit is meritless.”
In 2022, Peterson bought the Glad brand recycling bags at a store in San Francisco, according to the complaint, which seeks to represent both nationwide and California-specific classes of consumers.
The complaint points to the fact that the bags are marketed for use with recyclables, with a photo on the package showing a blue polyethylene bag holding recyclables and the text “Recycling” and “Designed for municipal use” on the front. In a smaller font, the package also includes the wording “Please check your local facilities.”
Peterson’s lawsuit notes that Glad, which is based in Oakland, Calif., failed to note that the LDPE bags themselves are not recyclable, or that most curbside recycling programs don’t accept bagged recyclables. Prominent exceptions exist, of course, such as New York City’s bagged recyclables program.
“The false Product name and label tricks consumers into believing they can bag recyclables outside of these limited programs; when that happens, the entire bag of recyclables is diverted to landfills or incinerators as regular trash,” according to Peterson’s complaint. “Consumers who care about the environment are unknowingly contributing to making pollution worse – and paying Glad a premium to do so.”
Many jurisdictions actively work to persuade residents not to bag their recyclables, because the bags can cause problems at MRFs. In fact, officials in Washington state are kicking off a public information campaign on that very topic.
The complaint seeks an injunction blocking the company from using the advertising and marketing language, as well as compensation for consumers who bought the recycling bags.
In a statement to Resource Recycling, Chris Nielsen, director of Glad brand innovation and sustainability, shot back at the complaint.
“Glad recycling bags were developed in partnership with municipal recycling programs, to be used in bag-based programs and make it easier to transport and sort recyclables,” he stated. “Some municipalities direct that recyclables be placed in translucent bags, but since municipality guidelines vary from place to place and change from time to time, our packaging clearly and explicitly encourages consumers to check with their local facilities regarding their recycling program requirements.”
The lawsuit is just the latest to target brand owners over recycling-related claims, and it’s the third recent legal action regarding collection bags, in particular.
The Connecticut attorney general in June 2022 filed a lawsuit with similar claims against Reynolds Consumer Products over marketing language on the company’s Hefty brand recycling bags. That case is ongoing; however, Peterson’s lawsuit noted that Hefty changed its marketing language after the lawsuit was filed to make it clear that the bags themselves are not recyclable.
Separately, a private citizen who lives in Oakland, Calif. had also sued Reynolds Consumer Products over the recycling bags, but she dropped her complaint late last year.
Other lawsuits have taken aim at other plastic products in recent years. Actions have been filed against PET water bottle producer Niagara Bottling, coffee pod company Keurig Green Mountain, retailer and brand owner 7-Eleven, mail-in recycling service provider TerraCycle, global retailer Walmart, California-based grocery chains Gelson’s Markets and Stater Brother Markets, Walgreens and others.
Results have been mixed. In some cases, the companies won outright, but in a couple, they agreed to settlements, with Keurig agreeing to pay $10 million and change its marketing claims. Many of the cases are ongoing.
Some of the cases cite the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Green Guides, which cover environmental and health-friendly advertising language and which are referenced by California statutes. The FTC is currently working to revise the Green Guides, which were last updated over a decade ago.
More stories about courts/lawsuits
- Editor’s Take: The Green Guides matter (and don’t)
- Arkansas Supreme Court overturns recycling fees ruling
- Aluminum recycler pleads guilty to air pollution crime