Sierra Club sues brand owners over PET recyclability claims

The Sierra Club said June 16 that it’s suing several plastic bottled water makers, including Coca-Cola Co., Niagara Bottling LLC and BlueTriton Brands, over what it says are deceptive marketing claims around recyclability of the containers.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in California, says messages on PET water bottles that they are “100 percent Recyclable” misleads consumers and violates the California Environmental Marketing Claims Act.

The Oakland, Calif-based Sierra Club asks the court to order companies to stop making that claim, arguing that the caps and biaxially oriented polypropylene sleeves on the bottles are not recyclable.

It also points to estimates that at least 28 percent of the PET bottles collected are themselves not recyclable from contamination and processing loss and wind up in a landfill or incinerated.

And it contends that with the U.S. having the domestic capacity to recycle only 22.5 percent of its PET and high-density polyethylene bottles, marketing claims that the bottles are 100 percent recyclable in effect deceives consumers and violates California law and Federal Trade Commission guidelines.

“Today’s lawsuit is an important step toward ending the unchecked use of plastic that cannot be recycled,” said Michael Brune, executive director of Sierra Club. “This misinformation campaign seriously harms our ability to collectively create a livable planet and a sustainable future.”

Judith Enck, the president of Beyond Plastics and a former Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator, said in a news conference that the parties want tougher federal and state enforcement of marketing claims about recyclability.

“Consumers care about recycling and it is essential that big companies stop making false and misleading statements about the recyclability of their products,” Enck said.

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