In a bullying move that demonstrates just how devoid of morals and ethics most plastic bag manufacturers may be, Hilex Poly Co., Superbag Operating and Advance Polybag have sued ChicoBag on the grounds that the reusable bag manufacturer has “irreparably harmed” their businesses.
If you don’t know, ChicoBag is a small Northern California-based business that makes cool reusable bags that fold up into tiny, highly portable pouches. You probably have seen them at the checkout stand at select grocery stores and other retailers. The head of ChicoBag is a young entrepreneur named Andy Keller who is absolutely passionate about the environment’s need for us to break our addiction to single-use plastic packaging.
As a result, Andy created ChicoBag and the “bag monster,” a costume made of 500 plastic bags (about the average number of bags used annually per person in the U.S). The bag monster has been a huge hit in schools, rallies, council chambers, and press events in getting the point across about plastic pollution.
The plastic bag manufacturing industry wasn’t amused by Andy’s bag monster or his use of statements and facts on the size of our bag addiction and the perils of plastic bags in the marine environment. As a result, these three enormous companies sued Andy in South Carolina.
Not only is South Carolina the home of Hilex, the same corporation that has dropped millions on opposing California bag ban legislation, but the state does not have an anti-SLAPP suit provision in its laws. As a result, large companies or developers can sue individuals, nonprofits or small businesses and the entire economic burden of legal defense falls on their shoulders. For a small business like ChicoBag, the economic impact of this lawsuit could be devastating, regardless of the verdict.
The fact that the plastic bag manufacturing industry is suing to protect its financial interests isn’t news. Ask Manhattan Beach and Oakland, which have been targeted with suits to derail their efforts to enact plastic bag bans. And we’ve seen these same bag manufacturers drop millions to defeat legislation in California and Seattle.
However, the plastic bag manufacturers’ hubris and hypocrisy to sue a small green business because it is citing statistics from the National Geographic and other trusted sources is extraordinary. The irreparable harm here is beyond dispute, but it’s what’s being done to marine life and our beaches and rivers by plastic bags. Yet the polluters have the gall to sue a green business that provides a convenient solution to a major component of the marine debris crisis.
The trial date hasn’t been set yet. First comes the excruciating and expensive discovery process. Please do what you can to save the bag monster. By saving the bag monster, you’ll be saving green businesses (the sort needed to create jobs here in California) and helping to save the world’s oceans and rivers.
As if you needed yet another reason to hate plastic bag manufacturers, add bullying SLAPP suits to small business to your arsenal of arguments the next time a plastic bag ban vote comes up in your community.
You can learn more about how to support Andy’s work at www.suedbyplastic.com.