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Released by: District Attorney
For Immediate Release

Costco and San Francisco Bay Gourmet Coffee Settle Case with District Attorneys’ Offices for Sale of Plastic Coffee Pods

Santa Rosa, CA  –  March 20, 2018  –  District Attorney Jill Ravitch has announced that her office, with 24 other District Attorney’s Offices in California, settled an environmental and consumer protection action against Costco Wholesale Corporation, Inc. and JBR, Inc., a coffee company headquartered in Roseville, CA which does business as San Francisco Bay Gourmet Coffee and the Rogers Family Company. The settlement was based on allegations that the companies sold plastic coffee pods labeled with untrue and misleading marketing claims, including statements related to biodegradability and compostability.

The California Legislature was concerned that a growing number of marketers sought to promote the sale of disposable plastic products using misleading claims of biodegradability and compostability. California Law imposes an outright ban on the sale of plastics labeled “biodegradable” (or labeled with similar language) and prohibits the sale of plastic products labeled “compostable” -- unless the product passes a specified scientific test that to ensure the plastic will break down in a commercial composting facility.

San Francisco Bay Gourmet Coffee’s plastic coffee pods and the plastic bags containing the pods were labeled as “97% biodegradable” and “biodegradable,” despite the legal ban regarding the sale of such products. Further, the company marketed the plastic coffee pods as compostable when the pod had not met compostability standards. The company also labeled its “Onecup” coffee pods as “No Plastic Cup,” when the ring, mesh, and part of the lid were all made of plant-based plastic.

“These laws are designed to protect consumers who wish to reduce the problem of plastic waste but instead are misled into purchasing plastic products that will not break down in a landfill,” said District Attorney Ravitch. Consumers interested in diverting plastic waste from landfills to municipal composting facilities should look for products that are labeled as having met scientific compostability standards (specifically, a compostable plastics certification called “ASTM D6400”).

The judgment prohibits Costco and JBR, Inc. from selling the plastic coffee pods labeled “biodegradable.” The companies are also prohibited from selling them labeled “compostable” unless a scientific certification supports the claim. The companies agreed to jointly pay a total of $500,000 in civil penalties and costs. The amount will be spread among all counties who participated in the action.

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Joe Langenbahn
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County of Sonoma
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