Non-profit environmental advocacy group Earth Island Institute has filed suit against BlueTriton Brands alleging the company has contributed to plastic pollution despite sustainability claims.
Berkeley, Calif.-based Earth Island filed the suit with the District of Columbia Superior Court on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021.
According to the complaint, BlueTriton Brands, which was formerly known as Nestlé Waters North America, is in violation of the DC Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA). The beverage company is known for producing well-known brands such as Poland Spring® Brand 100% Natural Spring Water, Deer Park® Brand 100% Natural Spring Water, Ozarka® Brand 100% Natural Spring Water, Ice Mountain® Brand 100% Natural Spring Water, Zephyrhills® Brand 100% Natural Spring Water, Arrowhead® Brand Mountain Spring Water, Pure Life®, and Splash.
“BlueTriton brands like Deer Park, Poland Spring, and Pure Life are the same brands we see on so many of the plastic water bottles polluting our rivers, beaches, city streets, and parks," said Julia Cohen, MPH, co-founder and managing director at Plastic Pollution Coalition, a project of Earth Island Institute, in a statement. "Research shows that microplastics are polluting our bodies too, in addition to the health impacts on people living near plastic production facilities who suffer from higher rates of asthma, fertility issues, and more."
The filed court document points to a 2019 study commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund International that discovered via testing that 94.4% of tap water samples contain microplastics. It also found that bottled water brands such as Nestle Pure Life contain double the amount of plastics as tap water. The lawsuit alleges:
BlueTriton has done very little to address the immense problem of plastic pollution and continues to represent to consumers that recycling mitigates the environmental harm of its plastic production and use. Furthermore, BlueTrition and its predecessor Nestlé Waters North America have been subject to numerous lawsuits regarding the company's depletion of natural water resources and unauthorized water diversion. Consequently, BlueTriton, in its harmful water extraction practices and its proliferation of single-use plastic, is not a truly 'sustainable' company.
The particular subsections of the DC CPPA in which BlueTriton is allegedly in violation of are located under § 28–3904 of the act regarding unfair or deceptive trade practices, including:
- representing that goods or services have a source, sponsorship, approval, certification, accessories, characteristics, ingredients, uses, benefits, or quantities that they do not have;
- representing that goods or services are of particular standard, quality, grade, style, or model, if in fact they are of another;
- misrepresenting as to a material fact which has a tendency to mislead;
- failing to state a material fact if such failure tends to mislead;
- using innuendo or ambiguity as to a material fact, which has a tendency to mislead; and
- advertising or offering goods or services without the intent to sell them or without the intent to sell them as advertised or offered.
The suit specifically points out BlueTrition's advertising campaigns centered around its commitment to be a “sustainable” company striving for a “waste-free future.” Earth Island chastised the company for its name and logo — a blue trident (three-pronged spear) — meant to represent the brand as a "guardian of sustainable resources," calling it a "particularly egregious form of greenwashing."
Nestlé Waters North America announced that it had begun operating under BlueTrition Brands in April 2021. The company described the mantra behind the new logo, writing:
Triton is a god of the sea in classical Greek mythology. Combined with the color blue, representing water, the new name reflects the Company's role as a guardian of sustainable resources and a provider of fresh water. Moreover, BlueTriton signifies the Company's continued commitment as an independent business to sustainability and high-quality products and services.
Dean Metropoulos, chairman and interim chief executive officer of BlueTriton Brands previously stated: "We proudly recognize that communities of today and generations to come depend on the Company to be a good neighbor, responsible corporate citizen, and faithful steward of our environment. We will continue to support the Company's commitment to being at the forefront of sustainable water management, advancing recycling and waste reduction, working toward carbon-neutral operations, and investing in, and partnering with, local communities to support a better world."
BlueTriton's product portfolio features the top-selling bottle water brands in the United States. It currently holds about a third of the U.S. market share for bottled water.
Consumer protection law firm Richman Law & Policy is representing Earth Island Institute. The firm describes itself as a "boutique law firm specializing in food-focused public-interest class actions and non-profit representation."
BlueTriton provided the following statement in response to a request from Waste360:
At BlueTriton Brands, our resolve to lead the industry in water stewardship and sustainable packaging, including the use of recycled PET plastic, has never been stronger. This commitment is evident through initiatives such as our certification of 16 of our 27 production facilities under the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) Standard, as well as investments in and collaborations with organizations like the Closed Loop Fund and The Recycling Partnership to help increase recycling capabilities and improve access across the U.S.
Importantly, BlueTriton Brands complies with all relevant federal and state consumer protection laws. While we do not typically comment on pending litigation, we are reviewing the lawsuit and will address the claims in the appropriate forum.