This tracker was launched July 15, 2022. It was last updated November 17, 2023.
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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Sierra Club v. Coca Cola, No. 4:21-cv-04644 (N.D. Cal. 2021)
Allegations: Plaintiff, an environmental group, brought an action against Coca-Cola and BlueTriton Brands, Inc. (formerly Nestle Waters North America, Inc.), seeking injunctive relief precluding the sale of plastic bottled water unless the packaging and marketing are modified to remove "100% Recyclable" from the labeling. Plaintiff alleged that this marketing constituted unlawful, unfair, and deceptive business practices, in violation of California Public Policy, the California Environmental Marketing Claims Act, and the Federal Trade Commission Green Guides because not every component of the bottles can be recycled. Filed 6/16/21. See complaint here.
Last Beach Cleanup v. Terracycle, Inc., No. RG21090702 (Cal. Super. Ct. 2021)
Allegations: Plaintiff, an environmental organization, brought this action against TerraCycle, Inc. and other plastic bottle producers seeking injunctive relief. Plaintiffs sought to enjoin Defendants' acts of unfair competition and other unlawful practices. Plaintiff alleged that Defendants violated California's unfair competition and false advertising laws, as well as the Environmental Marketing Claims Act, because Defendants advertised, marketed, and sold products and packaging made from single-use plastics and other materials marked with an unqualified representation stating that they are recyclable--despite the products being difficult to recycle. Filed 3/24/21. See complaint here.
Outcome: Closed. On November 15, 2021, the parties entered into a settlement agreement. Per the agreement, Defendants agreed to maintain records substantiating the validity of their recycling representations, not license or permit their names to be used on labels or advertising without compliance with the substantiation requirement, and limit their name to be used for products that are part of an unlimited waste program.
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.
Status: Closed. On June 29, 2021, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, stating that Plaintiff did not have a plausable claim. Defendant also filed a motion to stay discovery, which Plaintiff opposed via motion. On October 1, 2021, the court ruled on Defendant's motion to dismiss, granting it in part and denying it in part. The court also denied Defendant's motion to stay discovery. See court order here. Defendant's later filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's amended complaint, which the court granted. On August 28, 2022, Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the case.
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. Plaintiffs brought two claims under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Clean Water Act. They alleged that spilled plastic pellets found within the Charleston Harbor Watershed were found in the highest concentrations near Defendant's facility, and that the pellets also resembled pellets found at Defendant's facility, and were comprised of the same material as those handled by Defendant. Filed 3/20/2020. See complaint here.
Outcome: Closed. On 3/3/2021, the parties filed a joint motion to dismiss pursuit to a settlement agreement where Defendant agreed to pay $1.2 million, which will fund projects focused on improving the quality of the Charleston Harbor watershed. The settlement funds will also pay for an independent auditor to visit Defendant's new facility and make recommendations on preventing plastic pellets from entering the environment. According to the terms of the agreement, Defendant must implement the auditor's recommendations.
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 that their failure to adequately consider the harm to cultural resources, such as slave burial grounds on the site, violated of the National Historical Preservation Act. Filed 01/15/2020. See complaint here.
Outcome: Closed. On January 1, 2021, the court released a memorandum opinion, where it granted Defendant's motion for remand and dismissed the case, noting that the Army Corps were reevaluating the permit.
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 EPA's approvals of Hawai'i impaired waters lists under the Clean Water Act. In their complaint, Plaintiff's also asked the court to order EPA to promptly evaluate and identify waters in Hawai'i impaired by plastic pollution. Plaintiffs argued that EPA approvals violated the Administrative Procedure Act and Clean Water Act. Filed 02/05/20. See complaint here.
Outcome: Closed. On September 2, 2020, the case settled after EPA, by letter, notified the State of Hawai'i that it would withdraw its approval of certain waterbodies and affirmatively disapprove the State's decision to not list the Kamilo Beach and Tern Island waterbodies. Plaintiffs then filed a notice of voluntary dismissal, without prejudice.
Poly-Pak Indus., Inc. v. State of NY, No. 02673/2020 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2020)
Allegations: Plaintiffs, plastic producers and local businesses, brought an action against the State of New York and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation seeking declarative and injunctive relief. Plaintiffs asked the court to void the New York Bag Reduction Act, declare that the regulations relating to the implementation of the Act are unlawfully ultra vires, declare the requirements imposed by the Bag Regulations to be arbitrary and capricious, and permanently restrain Defendants from implementing or enforcing the Bag Reduction Act, its concomitant regulations, or the requirements imposed by the regulations. Filed 02/28/20. See complaint here.
Outcome: Closed. On August 20, 2020, the court issued and order, holding that the contested portions of the bag regulations are ultra vires and invalid as a matter of law. It enjoined Defendants and their agents, officers, and employees from enforcing the specified portions of the bag regulations. The court further granted petitioners the statutory costs of the action.
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 Plaintiffs' 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. Filed 6/23/20.
Status: Closed. On July 16, 2020, the court granted Plaintiff's petition, holding that a constitutional violation would occur absent an order extending the deadline due to COVID impacts on signature gathering. Approximately 900,000 Californians signed petitions to put the California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act on the November 2022 ballot.
Earth Island Institute v. Crystal Geyser Water Co., No. 20CIV01213 (Cal. Super. Ct. 2020)
Allegations: Plaintiff, an environmental organization, brought an action against Crystal Geyser Water Co. and other plastic bottle producers seeking compensatory and equitable relief for injuries sustained as a result of plastic pollution, which Plaintiff claimed to be a result of the dissemination of the Defendants' products. Plaintiff also claimed that Defendants misinformed consumers about how their products become pollutants. Plaintiff brought these claims under under California public nuisance law, strict product liability for failure to warn and design defect, breach of express warranty, and unlawful practices under the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act. Filed 2/26/2020. See complaint here.
Status: Pending. Defendants’ filed a Motion to Quash Summons and Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction, which was denied on June 6, 2022, by the Superior Court of California of the County of San Mateo. Previously, Defendants had also unsuccessfully attempted to remove the case to federal court. The case will be heard in California. As of July 2023, there are no new updates.
NRDC, Inc. v. EPA, No. 1:16-cv-01861 (D.D.C. 2016)
Allegations: Plaintiff, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), brought an action against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and under the Administrative Procedure Act, seeking to challenge EPA's approval of a total maximum daily load (TMDL) for trash pollution promulgated by the District of Columbia and Maryland as required by the Clean Water Act. Filed 9/19/2016. See complaint here.
Status: Closed. On March 3, 2018, the court granted Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, holding that the TMDL was improper because it focused on removing trash that was already in the river, rather than on imposing controls to prevent trash from polluting the river in the first place. However, the court gave EPA discretion to establish a TMDL for trash in the river. On January 27, 2020, after EPA had failed to establish a TMDL, NRDC moved for the court to impose a final deadline for EPA’s compliance. In response, EPA filed a motion for a protective order against discovery. On June 2, 2020, the court denied EPA’s motion for a protective order. The Court ordered EPA to submit a reply to Plaintiff's motion by August 14, 2020. EPA requested for an extension and it was granted by the Court, giving EPA until August 31, 2020 to submit a response. On September 21, 2020, the court issued an order denying NRDC's request for a final compliance deadline, but required EPA to submit detailed status reports every three months. The case was closed on August 13, 2021. Since the ruling EPA has been working to develope an updated TMDL and status reports are sent to the Judge twice a year. EPA provides an overview of TMDLs which can be found here.