NY State Cracks Down on Plastic Pollution in Rivers

Earlier this week, The Washington Post reported that New York Attorney General Letitia James has filed a lawsuit against PepsiCo, accusing the snack and soda giant of polluting the Buffalo River with single-use plastic packaging from its products. The lawsuit alleges that PepsiCo’s plastic waste is causing “a public nuisance” and endangering both human health and wildlife.
James’ office is also claiming that PepsiCo misled the public about the effectiveness of its plastic recycling efforts and failed to warn consumers about the health and environmental risks of plastic packaging. The lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal actions against companies that produce plastic waste.
PepsiCo, headquartered in NY, is the maker of snack foods such as Doritos and Cheetos, and soft drinks such as Mountain Dew and 7 Up, in addition to its namesake soda. According to Bloomberg, the company is on course to take over as the biggest U.S. beverage company by market value.
In its lawsuit, the state attorney general’s office is asking a state court to make PepsiCo clean up the plastic pollution, add warning labels to products sold in the region and find a way of reducing the amount of packaging that enters the river.
The lawsuit is a significant development in the fight against plastic pollution. The outcome of the lawsuit could have far-reaching implications for other companies that produce plastic waste—including major players in the beauty industry.

Implications for the Beauty Industry

According to the University of Connecticut, the bottles, tubes, and containers used annually by the cosmetic industry adds up to 120 billion units of plastics packaging. Of these 120 billion units of plastic packaging used each year, 70% ends up in landfills.
This coincides with consumer trends, as beauty consumers worldwide are increasingly demanding more sustainable industry practices, including packaging. According to a recent ESW Global Voices survey of more than 16,000 consumers in 16 countries, sustainability is a key consideration for 87% of all consumers.
Elle Morris, chief marketing officer, Olberding Brand Family says the beauty industry has always been over-represented in packaging waste, however, she points out, “there are a number of notable brands (from indie to multi-nationals) which have sustainability as an integral part of their core values that we can learn from.”
One way beauty and personal care brands are curbing their waste is by making circularly designed refills. For example in 2022, Fenty Beauty by Rihanna launched Fenty Icon Refillable Lipstick—and followed it up two weeks later by introducing a chic refillable case in matte black.
Also last year, Authentic Beauty Concept, a Henkel brand, launched a new generation of its “Refill Bar” – a refill system that helps to create a more circular economy and offers many benefits for the environment, customers and salons.
Whether or not you believe these initiatives are sufficient enough to curb the industry’s waste problem, it is certain that many global companies will be watching this lawsuit closely, waiting to see its outcome.

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