Energy & Environment

Judge dismisses Greenpeace lawsuit against Walmart


A federal judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit filed by Greenpeace alleging Walmart misled the public about the recyclability of its plastic products.

In its December 2020 lawsuit, Greenpeace said certain Walmart products, such as applesauce cups and forks, were misleadingly marketed as recyclable but are not accepted at the majority of recycling facilities. The environmental organization accused the retailer of taking advantage of public desire to use more sustainable, environmentally friendly materials, which it said violated California laws on fair business practices and false advertising.

In her ruling, Judge Maxine Chesney of the Northern District of California, a Clinton appointee, ruled that Greenpeace lacked standing to sue Walmart. In her order, she wrote that group could not demonstrate that it had been misled by the alleged false advertising.

“Here, nothing in the [First Amended Complaint] suggests Greenpeace engaged in its investigation in reliance on a belief that the statements on which it bases its claims were true; rather, the FAC alleges the action taken by Greenpeace was in response to its belief that the challenged statements were false,” Chesney wrote. “In other words, Greenpeace was never misled.”

Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign Director John Hocevar responded by saying the group is evaluating its further legal options and that the ruling had no effect on Walmart’s alleged conduct.

“Walmart sells more products packaged in throwaway plastic than almost any other polluter in the world. Big brands know their customers are growing concerned about plastic pollution, but instead of addressing real solutions they have opted for greenwashing,” he said in a statement.

“Walmart failed to take action when we pointed out that they were labeling packaging as recyclable when it was headed for landfills and incinerators. When we finally took them to court, Walmart used a legal technicality to challenge our right to file rather than addressing the substance of the case.”

Walmart spokesperson Randy Hargrove told The Hill that the company is “pleased the Court dismissed this baseless lawsuit.” 

“We previously reviewed these allegations and explained to Greenpeace that the product labeling complies with federal and state laws,” he said in a statement. “Like many other retailers, we rely on labeling developed and validated by our suppliers and sustainability partners, including How2Recycle.”


–Updated at 4:04 p.m.

Tags California Greenpeace USA Lawsuit recyclables Sustainability Walmart

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