Minnesota has become the second state to sue Reynolds Consumer Products and the first to sue Walmart for allegedly falsely advertising that some of their waste bags are recyclable.
The state said in a lawsuit announced Tuesday that Hefty brand recycling bags and Walmart's Great Value brand recycling bags — both made of low-density polyethylene — can't be recycled at any facility in Minnesota.
As a result, the suit said, recyclable items placed in the bags would wind up as trash in landfills, waterways or incinerators because opening the bags and sorting through their contents would be costly and potentially risky for recycling workers.
State Attorney General Keith Ellison announced the lawsuit — charging the companies with consumer fraud, deceptive trade practices, false advertising and deceptive environmental marketing claims — at nonprofit Eureka Recycling in northeast Minneapolis.
"Reynolds and Walmart ... are taking advantage of Minnesotans' good intentions to misleadingly market so-called 'recycling' bags to us that can't be recycled and actually harm recycling," Ellison said in a statement.
"I'm holding Reynolds and Walmart accountable for putting their ill-gotten profits ahead of people, our environment and the law."
Reynolds and Walmart used such phrasing as "perfect for all your recycling needs" and "developed for use in municipal recycling programs," which the complaint alleges are false.
The suit also alleges how in recent months, both companies have revised some of these statements on their websites and packaging to make them more flexible. For example, one such statement says the bags are "designed for use in participating program areas only" and consumers must confirm their recyclability with local recycling facilities.
"Plastic bags are not recyclable in our programs, and we don't accept them, but we get lots of them anyway," Lynn Hoffman, co-president of Eureka Recycling, said in a statement.
"They wrap around equipment, making it less effective. [They also] contaminate and decrease the value of other material like paper and cause safety hazards like fires."
The bags reportedly are also a potential threat to employees who must stop the recycling machines several times per day and manually untangle the bags.
Eureka estimated such bags are other plastics cost the facility about $75,000 a year in lost productivity and revenue.
In June 2022, the state of Connecticut sued Reynolds Consumer Products because of the recycling bags. And Walmart has been named in a class-action lawsuit over its bags.
"Walmart does not manufacture these items and looks to our suppliers to provide quality products that comply with all applicable laws, including labeling requirements," Walmart said in a statement. "We will respond in Court as appropriate once we are served."
Illinois-based Reynolds Consumer Products Inc., known for Reynolds Wrap aluminum foil, produces the Hefty bags. Walmart is the country's largest retailer and has Great Value bags as a private brand.