Local News Matters weekly newsletter

Start your week with a little inspiration. Sign up for our informative, community-based newsletter, delivered on Mondays with news about the Bay Area.

A San Mateo County judge recently ordered that a lawsuit proceed against 10 major consumer goods companies for their alleged role in causing plastic pollution in California waters. The companies include Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestle USA.

Judge V. Raymond Swope of the San Mateo County Superior Court gave the order at the end of May, thus denying the companies’ attempt to dismiss the suit.

Earth Island Institute, an environmental nonprofit based in Berkeley, sued the 10 companies, alleging that they have not accepted their role in plastic pollution, instead blaming consumers for not recycling or for littering.

“As Defendants have known for decades, plastic recycling wages a losing battle to the exponential increase in plastic production each year,” the complaint reads.

Moreover, the complaint alleges that companies have not adopted more sustainable alternatives, such as switching materials or redesigning packaging, in the interest of reaping higher profits.

“Corporations like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo can’t be allowed to hide behind their out-of-state status to avoid accountability for their role in the plastic pollution crisis here in California.”

Sumona Majumdar, Earth Island Institute

In addition to The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo Inc., and Nestle USA, Inc., other companies named in the lawsuit include Crystal Geyser Water Company, The Clorox Company, Mars Inc., Danone North America, Mondelez International Inc., Colgate-Palmolive Company and The Procter & Gamble Company.

Representatives of the companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the lawsuit on Monday.

Sumona Majumdar, Earth Island Institute’s general counsel, said the order shows that companies who profit from products packaged in plastic in California can be sued for the harms caused by their plastic packaging.

“Corporations like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo can’t be allowed to hide behind their out-of-state status to avoid accountability for their role in the plastic pollution crisis here in California,” Majumdar said in a statement.

Most of the named companies are based outside of California.

Earth Island — represented by law firm Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy — filed the lawsuit in February 2020 against the 10 companies.

The full complaint is available online.