This tracker was launched July 15, 2022. It was last updated October 3, 2022.
The Plastics Litigation Tracker tracks cases addressing plastics across federal and state courts. It includes resolved cases and cases that are still pending. The cases can be filtered by category, plaintiff, defendant, and jurisdiction. They are listed in reverse chronological order based on the date of the latest update in each case. Where there is no decision, the cases will appear in alphabetical order. Descriptions of the categories can be found here. This blog post gives an introduction to the project and analyzes trends evident from the cases in the tracker at the time it was launched.
The tracker will be updated as cases are resolved and new cases are filed. To submit cases, updates, or corrections to this database, please email [email protected].
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Hanscom v. Reynolds Consumer Products Inc., No. 4:21-cv-03434 (N.D. Cal. 2021)
Allegations: Plaintiff, Lisabeth Hanscom, brought a class action against Reynolds Consumer Products Inc. seeking an injunction precluding the sale of Hefty brand Recycling Bags unless defendants modify the packaging and marketing to remove "Recycling" from the labeling and disclose omitted facts regarding their true recyclability. The Plaintiff is further seeking damages for unfair competition and false advertising. The Plaintiff alleged that the Defendant's product marketing constitutes an unfair, unlawful, and deceptive trade practice in violation of the Federal Trade Commission Green Guides for Use of Environmental Marketing Claims and the California Environmental Marketing Claims Act because it is not recyclable and is instead a harmful contaminant that decreases the recyclability of other items. Filed 5/7/2021. See the complaint here.
Charleston Waterkeeper v. Frontier Logistics, L.P., No. 2:20-cv-1089 (D.S.C. 2020)
Allegations: Plaintiffs, several local environmental groups, brought an action against Frontier Logistics, L.P. seeking injunctive relief, the imposition of civil penalties, and an award of litigation costs and attorney fees. The Plaintiffs brought two claims under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Clean Water Act, alleging that spilled plastic pellets within the Charleston Harbor Watershed were found in the highest concentrations near Defendant facility, resembled those plastic pellets found at Defendant facility, and were comprised of the same material as those handled by the Defendant. Filed 3/20/2020.
Outcome: On March 3rd, 2021, the parties filed a joint motion to dismiss pursuit to a settlement where Frontier Logistics agreed to pay $1.2 million. The settlement money will be used for projects to improve the quality of the Charleston Harbor watershed. It will also allow an independent auditor to visit its new facility and make recommendations on preventing plastic pellets from entering the environment, which Frontier will implement. Previously, the Court denied the Defendant motion to quash, denied the Defendant motion for judgment on the pleadings, and denied the Defendant motion the strike. In a separate opinion, the Court also denied a third party motion to quash and a nonparty motion to stay.
Center for Biological Diversity et al v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, No. 1:20-cv-00103 (D.D.C. 2020)
Allegations: Plaintiffs, conservation and community organizations brought an action against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers seeking to challenge a permit that the Army Corps of Engineers provided for a proposed petrochemical complex in St. James Parish, Louisiana. Plaintiffs argued that the failure to disclose the environmental damage and public health risks of the plastic facility under the National Environmental Policy Act violated the Clean Air Act, and the failure to adequately consider the harm to cultural resources such as slave burial grounds on the site violated of the National Historical Preservation Act.
Outcome: The Court dismissed the case since the agency was reevaluating the permit. See the dismissal here.
Center for Biological Diversity et al v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency et al, No. 1:20-cv-00056 (D. Haw. 2020)
Allegations: Plaintiffs, environmental organizations, brought an action against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeking to challenge the EPA approvals of Hawaii impaired waters lists under the Clean Water Act and require the EPA to promptly evaluate and identify waters in Hawaii impaired by plastic pollution. Plaintiffs argued that the EPA approvals violated the Administrative Procedure Act and Clean Water Act.
Outcome: The case was settled after the EPA, by letter, notified the State of Hawaii that it would withdraw its approval of certain waterbodies, disapproving the state's decision not to list the Kamilo Beach and Tern Island waterbodies.
Poly-Pak Indus., Inc. v. State of NY, No. 02673/2020 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2020)
Allegations: Plaintiffs, plastic producer and local businesses, brought an action against the State of New York and the state environmental department seeking declarative and injunctive relief declaring the regulations promulgated the New York Bag Reduction Act void, declaring the regulations relating to the implementation of the Act to be unlawfully ultra vires, declaring the requirements imposed by the Bag Regulations to be arbitrary and capricious, and permanently restraining the Defendants from implementing or enforcing the Bag Reduction Act, its concomitant regulations, or the requirements imposed by the regulations. The Plaintiffs argued that the Bag Reduction Act and Bag Regulations were in conflict with existing law, vague, unconstitutional, ultra vires, and arbitrary and capricious.
Outcome: The Court ordered and declared that relevant portions of the Bag Regulations are ultra vires and invalid as a matter of law and enjoined the Defendants and their agents, officers, and employees from enforcing the relevant portions of the Bag Regulations. The court further granted petitioners the statutory costs of the action. See the judgment here.
Sangiacomo v. Padilla, No. 34-2020-80003413 (Cal. Sup. Ct. Sac. 2020)
Allegations: Plaintiffs, environmental groups, brought an action against Alex Padilla in his official capacity as Secretary of State for the State of California seeking to petition for a writ of mandate extending the Plaintiff deadline by which they must submit signatures in support of an initiative measure that would enact statutory provisions. The initiative, entitled the California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act of 2020, would authorize the California Department of Resources, Recycling and Recovery to issue regulations restricting the use of single-use plastic packaging, would bar certain polystyrene containers, would impose a tax on producers of single-use plastics, and would allocate new tax revenues for recycling and environmental programs in the state.
Status: On July 16, 2020 Court granted the petition for Writ of Mandate, holding that a constitutional violation would occur absent an order extending the deadline due to Covid impacts on signature gathering. The California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act will be on the November 2022 statewide ballot. Close to 900,000 Californians signed petitions to put the measure on the ballot.
NRDC, Inc. v. EPA, No. 1:16-cv-01861 (D.D.C. 2016)
Allegations: Plaintiff, Natural Resources Defense Council, brought an action under the Administrative Procedure Act against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeking to challenge the EPA approval of a total maximum daily load for trash pollution promulgated by the District of Columbia and Maryland as required by the Clean Water Act. Filed 9/19/2016.
Status: The Court granted the Plaintiff motion for summary judgment, holding that the TMDL was improper because it focused on removing trash already in the river, rather than on imposing controls to prevent trash from polluting the river in the first place. Around two years after the initial 2018 decision, the NRDC moved for the Court to impose a deadline on the EPA’s compliance. It argued that court intervention was necessary to force the EPA to complete its plan to limit the trash entering the Anacostia River. The EPA responded with a motion for a protective order against discovery. In June 2020 the Court denied the EPA’s motion for a protective order. See the opinion here.
Florida Retail Federation v. City of Coral Gables, No. 2016-018370-CA-01 (Fla. Cir. Ct. 2016)
Allegations: Plaintiff, trade association, brought an action against the City of Coral Gables seeking a declaration that the city Polystyrene Ordinance which banned the sale or use of polystyrene containers by city vendors or contractors was invalid. Plaintiff argued that the ordinance was preempted by three separate state statutes.
Outcome: The trial court ruled in favor of the defendant. On appeal, the Court reversed and remanded for entry of final judgment in favor of the Plaintiff, holding that the three sections were constitutional and by their plain language preempted the city ordinance. See the judgment here.
Gameros v. City of San Diego, No. 2019-00013383 (Cal. Super. Ct. SD 2019)
Allegations: Plaintiffs, restaurant association, brought an action against the City of San Diego seeking a writ of mandate directing the city to set aside an ordinance which banned the distribution of polystyrene foam food containers, for temporary stay from taking action on the ordinance, and attorney's fees. The Plaintiffs argued that the ordinance violated the California Environmental Quality Act by adopting the ordinance without first preparing any environmental analysis with respect to potential environmental impacts of the proposed ban. Filed 3/12/2019.
Status: The parties reached a settlement agreement and San Diego said it would stay enforcement of the ordinance while it prepares an environmental impact report. As of January 2022, the city of San Diego is reconsidering the polystyrene foam ban.
Baker v. Nestle S.A., No. 2:18-cv-03097 (C.D. Cal. 2019)
Allegations: Plaintiff, Cindy Baker, filed a putative class action against Nestle S.A. seeking damages, disgorgement of Defendant revenues, and injunctive relief enjoining the Defendants from unlawful marketing practices and ordering the Defendant to engage in a corrective advertising campaign. The Plaintiff argued that the Defendant practices of marketing of bottled water as "pure" or "purified" when it instead contained plastics and microplastics violated the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act, California's Consumer Legal Remedies Act, California's unfair competition law, California's false advertising law, and further argued that the practice constituted breach of express warranty, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and injunction. Filed 4/12/2018.
Outcome: The Court granted the Defendant motion to dismiss. See the order here.