New York State is taking legal action against PepsiCo and its subsidiary, Frito-Lay, for their contribution to the litter problem in bodies of water that supply Buffalo with drinking water. Filed by Attorney General Letitia James in the state Supreme Court, the lawsuit claims that the companies are creating a public nuisance by producing large quantities of plastic bottles and wrappers, some of which end up in the Buffalo River. The excessive use of plastic by PepsiCo is cited as a harmful practice that impacts the environment.

Attorney General Letitia James emphasized that no company should be exempt from responsibility when it comes to preventing harm to the environment and public health. She stated, "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."

Addressing the lawsuit, PepsiCo released a statement indicating its commitment to reducing plastic usage and promoting effective recycling methods. However, the company did not directly address the claim that it is legally responsible for preventing garbage from entering the Buffalo River.

PepsiCo, headquartered in New York, produces and packages over 85 different beverage brands, including popular products such as Gatorade and Pepsi. They also offer around 25 snack food brands, primarily packaged in plastic containers intended for disposal or recycling upon use.

Despite previous promises to decrease plastic consumption, the lawsuit alleges that PepsiCo is failing to make meaningful strides to combat plastic pollution and accuses the company of misleading the public about its efforts.

The Impact of Plastic Waste on the Buffalo River

Litter from various sources continues to accumulate in the Buffalo River, posing a significant threat to its ecosystem. According to a recent survey conducted in 2022, PepsiCo has been identified as the primary contributor to the plastic waste plaguing this river. Out of the 1,916 pieces of plastic waste with recognizable brands, a staggering 17.1% were traced back to PepsiCo. Following PepsiCo, McDonald's was found to be the second-largest contributor, albeit at a considerable distance.

The Buffalo River, which ultimately flows into Lake Erie, was once notorious as one of the most polluted rivers in America. However, since restoration efforts were initiated in 1989, significant progress has been made in rehabilitating its ecosystem.

James, a notable Democratic figure, is calling for PepsiCo to undertake more substantial action regarding the potential health and environmental hazards associated with its packaging. This includes urging the company to provide warnings to their customers regarding these risks. Moreover, James is seeking legal intervention to compel PepsiCo to devise a comprehensive plan aimed at preventing their packaging from polluting the Buffalo River.

Ultimately, the lawsuit filed also demands financial penalties and restitution in light of the damages caused.

Expressing her concern, Jill Jedlicka, executive director of Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, emphasizes the importance of preserving the progress made over the past 50 years. The dedicated efforts made to cleanse toxic pollution, enhance habitats, and restore communities surrounding the Buffalo River should not be undermined by an alarming surge in single-use plastic pollution.

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