In January 2011, three major plastic-bag makers filed a lawsuit against the reusable-bag company ChicoBag, claiming ChicoBag was making false and misleading claims about plastic bags and causing "irreparable harm" to the industry. Andy Keller fought back. As told to Issie Lapowsky.
It was a battle over facts. They were trying to disprove the statistics we use about the impact plastic bags have on the environment. But really, it wasn't about us at all. They were trying to bury us in legal fees. They thought that under the threat of this huge lawsuit, I'd make a big public apology and regurgitate their talking points.
It was a stressful nine months. I felt like I was in a movie or a Tom Clancy novel, like I was a pawn in this massive corporate agenda.
We got all kinds of e-mails and letters of support. Some people even sent checks, no strings attached. We started a petition and got about 25,000 signatures. I had truth and public opinion on my side. That's what kept me going. Two of the companies dropped the case. The third, Hilex Poly, settled. My insurance company did end up paying them some money, which is infuriating to me, but if you look at the agreement, there were plenty of restrictions put on Hilex Poly. They agreed to print warning labels on their bags and to take down their pro-plastic-bag website. If anything was false and misleading, it was that website.
These guys tried to squish me, but I went toe-to-toe with them and came out better for it. They tried to make an example out of me. It backfired.