The ChicoBag Company, a reusable bag company, has become the sole defendant in a lawsuit filed by Hilex Poly Company, Superbag Operating, and Advance Polybag, three of the largest domestic manufacturers of disposable single‐use plastic bags, on the grounds that ChicoBag has “irreparably harmed” their business. The plaintiffs point to ChicoBag’s "Learn The Facts" page which provides well sourced and widely accepted information regarding the consumption and environmental impacts of single‐use plastics, accusing ChicoBag of false advertising and unfair competition."I don’t think this lawsuit is really about the facts, I believe it is simply a way for the industry to squash the competition and scare all of us into silence,” stated Andy Keller, inventor of ChicoBag and president of the company.
Keller is a leader in the movement to reduce single‐use bag waste and is well known for his “Bag Monster” character and environmentally themed blog, bagmonster.com. Each Bag Monster costume is decked out with 500 plastic bags, a walking ball of bags embodying the average number of single‐use bags an American uses in one year. While the Bag Monster is not specifically mentioned in the lawsuit, its success may have made Keller a target of the industry.
In response to the lawsuit, ChicoBag has created SuedByPlastic.com, a web portal designed to make public the bag giants' alleged bully tactics and to gather support for ChicoBag and the Bag Monster.
The lawsuit against Keller’s company was filed in South Carolina, a state that has no anti‐SLAPP laws. A SLAPP suit (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) is intended to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.
In an effort to understand how this lawsuit fits into the larger strategy of the plastics industry, Keller began investigating the history of industry’s litigation tactics, and uncovered a long and largely untold story of conflict between the public and the now ubiquitous plastic bag.
Keller found that lawsuits and lobbyists are not new to the plastics industry. In fact, in 2007, these same plaintiffs effectively stopped the financially strapped City of Oakland from moving forward with their plan to phase out single‐use plastic bags. As public awareness grew, the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition was formed with membership including Hilex Poly. Thus far, the coalition has filed lawsuits against the communities of Marin County, Palo Alto, Manhattan Beach, and Los Angeles County.