Plastics producers face potential wave of lawsuits, report suggests

By Dana Drugmand

As scientific understanding and public awareness of the health and environmental harms of plastics pollution continues to mount, plastics producers and plastic packaging manufacturers could face a rising tide of lawsuits from communities and states seeking to recover damage costs, a new report suggests.

The report, released on Wednesday from the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), details the substantial impacts of plastic pollution and related burdens on local governments, and explains how the plastics industry could be held legally responsible for these quantifiable harms and costs.

“The plastics crisis is causing harm to individuals, to communities, and to ecosystems,” said Steven Feit, a senior attorney at CIEL and co-author of the report. “There is going to be a [rising] wave of litigation in the plastics context, particularly as the evidence and the understanding of those impacts accrues.”

States and municipalities are already pursuing litigation against major fossil fuel producers, aiming to hold them accountable for localized climate damages and costs and alleging that the oil and gas industry knew decades ago about the potential for their products to cause “catastrophic” climate consequences and yet hid those risks from the public.

Such litigation over previous other toxic harms demonstrates how states and municipalities can pursue legal avenues for redress for the impacts of plastics, according to CIEL.

The American Chemistry Council called the CIEL report a “misdirected distraction” in a statement.  The industry association touted the plastics industry’s efforts to improve plastic recycling and cut waste.