photo: Kauaibrad/Creative Commons
The lawsuit filed by a trio of plastic bag manufacturers against ChicoBag has been brewing for some time (read Paula's account from back in April for more details), but it's surfaced again in the news cycle so we too will pull it back to the forefront of your mind. Basically, the plastic bag manufacturers accuse ChicoBag of exaggerating how bad plastic bags are for the environment and that this is amounts to a "direct competitor making unfair and misleading claims." Some good news for lovers of reusable bags and haters of needless plastic waste: New York Times quotes lawyer Rick Kurnit (who specializes in these type of false-claim cases) as saying that the plastic bag companies will have a hard time of it as it comes down to establishing that the alleged degree of exaggeration on the part of ChicoBag "would be sufficiently material as to influence a consumer's purchasing decisions."
Considering that ChicoBag's stats have come from the EPA's website, and stories about the impact that plastic waste and plastic bags have on the environment are hardly uncommon in the media, I can't see how you could causally link any claims made exclusively by ChicoBag as being the thing that affected purchasing decisions.
Ultimately Kurnit rightly notes, that when the situation regarding plastic pollution is as bad as it is do the exact stats make a difference:
If a consumer cares about the environment, lowering their footprint, if he cares about disposal--would it really matter if the swirling mass in the Pacific is the size of Texas of just Rhode Island?
Indeed. As I can personally attest, writing this from India where plastic litter is an ugly, destructive plague upon the nation's streets, alleys and waterways, it's that disposal component that is all too often overlooked when comparing paper v plastic v reusable. Drop a paper bag and it breaks down comparatively quickly; you're unlikely to casually throw away a reusable bag. Not so on either count with thin plastic shopping bags.