The state of New York is suing PepsiCo Inc. alleging it harms the environment through the use of single-use plastics.
Part of the legal action seeks a warning on PepsiCo product labels.
State Attorney General Letitia James, who has gained national exposure for her ongoing legal action against former President Donald Trump, now is pursuing the Purchase, N.Y.-based drink and snack maker in court.
The state alleges hundreds of discarded single-use plastic packaging pieces were found along the Buffalo River in Western New York and is using that as a basis for the lawsuit.
James "seeks to require PepsiCo to end practices that threaten the environment and the public and to obtain disgorgement, civil penalties and restitution for the damage inflicted upon New York's communities and environment," a statement from her office said.
The state claims 78 percent of all waste collected from 2013 to 2022 by volunteers with the Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper group in the Buffalo River watershed was plastic. Bottles, caps and food wrappers from PepsiCo "were found in significant amounts every year," the state alleged.
James also pointed to statistics from Break Free From Plastic, a nongovernmental organization opposed to plastic use, that claims PepsiCo plastics were either the No. 1 or No. 2 brand of trash collected each year from a total from about 2,400 separate collections across the United States from 2018 to 2022.
"No company is too big to ensure that their products do not damage our environment and public health. 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," James said in a statement. "No one should have to worry about plastics in their drinking water, plastic garbage littering their scenic riverfront, or plastic pollution harming wildlife."
New York wants a court to require PepsiCo to stop contributing to the "public nuisance" allegedly being created in the Buffalo area and remediate contamination that has already taken place. The state also wants the company to "identify and implement measures to reduce the quantity of PepsiCo's plastic packaging entering the Buffalo River.
"The lawsuit further seeks to stop PepsiCo from selling or distributing any product in the Buffalo region in single-use plastic packaging that does not contain an adequate warning," the state said in announcing the lawsuit.
Mark C. Poloncarz is executive of Erie County, which includes Buffalo. "Single-use plastic packaging has caused major problems for our environment and the chain of life in and around the Great Lakes, including our beloved Lake Erie. Taking action against those who pollute our environment is the only way to confront the serious challenges facing our community as a whole," he said in a statement.
The lawsuit alleges that PepsiCo waste represented an outsized portion of the trash surveyed by the attorney general's office in the Buffalo River "and its environs" in 2022. "PepsiCo's plastic packaging far exceeded any other source of identifiable plastic waste, and it was three times more abundant than the next contributor [McDonald's]," the lawsuit states.
The state collected waste at 13 locations along the Buffalo River and in the river's watershed, the lawsuit states, resulting in 2,621 pieces of waste with identifiable brands. A total of 73 percent — 1,916 pieces of the waste — was plastic. That included 328 from PepsiCo, 109 from McDonald's and 80 from Hershey Co. Coca-Cola Co. ranked sixth on the list of most encountered brands with 60 pieces of waste or 3.1 percent of the total. Blue Triton Brands Inc., which purchased the former Nestle Waters bottled water business in North America, was No. 9 with 42 pieces of trash and 2.2 percent of the total, the lawsuit states.