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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Coalition to Support Plastic Bag Recycling v. City of Oakland, No. RG07339097 (Cal. Super. Ct. 2007)
Allegations: Plaintiff, an association of plastic bag manufacturers and distributors, brought an action against the City of Oakland, California, seeking a writ of mandate. Plaintiff challenged a city ordinance banning the distribution of plastic carry-out bags by large retailers, alleging that it failed to comply with the California Environmental Quailty Act (CEQA) and that Defendants failed to see that the Ordinance would have negative effects on the environment. Filed 11/21/2007. See petition here.
Outcome: Closed. On May 16, 2008, the court issued a judgment granting a writ of mandate in favor of Plaintiff. The court also directed Defendant to suspend implementation and enforcement of the ordinance, and to vacate and set aside the ordinance because Defendant did not comply with CEQA Code Section 21000. The court ordered Defendant to not re-enact the ordinance until it complies with CEQA guidelines. See the judgment here.
Alternate Fuels, Inc. v. Dir. of the Ill. EPA, No. 96071 (Ill. 2004)
In June 1994, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a violation notice to Plaintiff, an alternative fuel producer, requiring it to submit permit applications for waste storage and waste treatment operations. The waste materials contained plastics from the shredding of chemical containers. Plaintiff submitted a permit application which EPA denied, stating that because Plaintiff's waste containers held chemicals, the company's facility was technically a pollution control facility, so Plaintiff needed to submit an additional permit. On November 2, 1998, Plaintiff brought an action against the State EPA seeking a declaratory judgment that neither the material Plaintiff used to make fuel, nor the fuel itself, constituted "waste" within the meaning of the State's Environmental Protection Act. Filed 11/02/98.
Outcome: Closed. In 2002, the circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff, but denied Plaintiff's request for attorney fees. The State EPA appealed. On appeal, the court affirmed, and held that the issue of whether the material was waste under the Act was ripe for review and justiciable. The court also found that the materials were not discarded and therefore were not waste under the Act, and that the State EPA's failure to correctly interpret the statute was not a rulemaking action and did not entitle Plaintiff to attorney fees. See the opinion here.
Plastic Pipe & Fittings Ass'n v. Cal. Bldg. Standards Com., No. B166499 (Cal. Ct. App. 2003)
Allegations: Plaintiff, a trade association, brought an action against the California Building Standards Commission and state agencies seeking to compel Defendants to adopt provisions of the Uniform Plumbing Code that do not require environmental review before using polyethylene pipes (PEX), into the California Plumbing Code. Filed 04/11/03. See complaint here.
Outcome: Closed. In February 2003, the trial court granted a peremptory writ of mandate compelling the adoption of various provisions of the Uniform Plumbing Code concerning polyethylene pipes into the California Plumbing Code. Defendants appealed. December 15, 2004, the Court of Appeal of California, Second District, Division Three, reversed, and directed the Superior Court to vacate the peremptory writ of mandate and to enter a judgment denying the petition, holding that evidence from the administrative record supported conclusions that the use of PEX could present an unreasonable risk of harm and that environmental review was necessary. See the opinion here. On November 16, 2004, the case was vacated.
Colbro Ship Mgmt. Co. v. United States, No. 3:98-cv-01052 (D.P.R. 1998)
Allegations: Plaintiff, a shipowner, brought an action against the United States to review a United States Coast Guard decision assessing a monetary penalty against it under the Clean Water Act. The Plaintiff was allegedly seen dumping trash, which consisted of food, paper, and plastic, into the ocean. Filed 1/23/1998.
Outcome: Closed. On February 4, 2000, the court granted Defendant's motion for summary judgment, holding that the Coast Guard's determination of responsibility was supported by substantial evidence and that the civil penalty was not an abuse of discretion. See the opinion here.
Soc'y of Plastics Indus. v. Cty. of Suffolk, No. 11262/1988 (N.Y. Sup Ct. 1988)
Allegations: Plaintiffs, trade organization and plastic product producer, brought an action against the County of Suffolk challenging the constitutionality of a local law banning the use of certain plastics. The association argued that the county failed to conduct an adequate environmental review under the state Environmental Quality review Act before passing the law.
Outcome: The Suffolk County Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional. On appeal, the Appellate Division affirmed. The Court reversed, holding that the trade organization lacked standing to challenge the county legislature compliance with the State Environmental Quality Review Act and that the plastic product producer failed to allege any threat of cognizable injury that it would suffer different from the public at large. See the opinion here. Effective March 1, 2020, Suffolk County Local Law No. 9-2020, requires that a 5 cent paper carryout bag reduction fee is charged on each paper carryout bag provided by a person required to collect tax to a customer in Suffolk County. The paper carryout bag reduction fee must be reflected and made payable on the sales slip, invoice, receipt, or other statement of the price rendered to the customer.
Soc'y of Plastics Indus., Inc. v. New York, 326 N.Y.S.2d 788 (Sup. Ct. 1971)
Allegations: Plaintiffs, a trade organization and plastic product producer, brought an action against the County of Suffolk, New York, challenging the constitutionality of a local law banning the use of certain plastics. The association argued that the County failed to conduct an adequate environmental review under the state Environmental Quality review Act before passing the law. Filed in August 1988.
Outcome: The Suffolk County Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional because Suffolk County failed to perform an adequate environmental review before the law was passed. The County appealed. On appeal, the Appellate Division affirmed. The New York Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the trade organization lacked standing to challenge the county legislature compliance with the State Environmental Quality Review Act and that the plastic product producer failed to allege any threat of cognizable injury that it would suffer different from the public at large. See the opinion here. On March 1, 2020, Suffolk County Local Law No. 9-2020 became effective. It requires that a 5 cent paper carryout bag reduction fee be charged for each paper carryout bag provided by a person required to collect tax to a customer in Suffolk County. The paper carryout bag reduction fee must be reflected and made payable on the sales slip, invoice, receipt, or other statement of the price rendered to the customer.
Chem. Mfrs. Ass'n v. U.S. EPA, No. 87-4849 (5th Cir. 1989)
Allegations: Petitioners, industrial and environmental organizations, brought an action against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) petitioning for review of regulations promulgated by the EPA pursuant to the Clean Water Act. EPA set limitations to the amount of discharge of pollutants were released in the nations water ways by manufacturing plants. Limitations of discharge included organic chemicals, plastics, and synthetic fibers. Petitioners alleged substantive defects in various provisions of the Act and argued that procedural defects in the promulgation in the provisions violated the notice-and-comment requirement of the Administrative Procedure Act.
Outcome: On March 30, 1989, the court denied Petitioners' requests for review and remanded the regulations in part, holding that the regulations regarding best practicable technology and regulations establishing pre-treatment standards for existing sources were reasonable, but that EPA arbitrarily failed to consider wastestream recycling as model technology when promulgating new source performance standards. See the opinion here. Plaintiffs filed a petition for rehearing. The court denied Petitioners request for rehearing in all respects except for remanding the limitations for priority pollutants for which in-plant biological treatment was the model technology to the EPA for further rulemaking and except for remanding an order to strike three complexed metals erroneously included in Appendix A from the Appendix, holding that it did not have jurisdiction to require the EPA to process applications for fundamentally-different-factors variances in more expeditious manner or to stay regulations pending EPA actions on variance applications.
Student Public Interest Research Group of New Jersey v. Tenneco Polymers , No. 83-2105 (D.N.J. 1985)
Allegations: Plaintiff, a citizens group, brought an action against Tenneco Polymers, Inc., producers of plastics and resins, seeking declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and the imposition of civil penalties on Defendant. Plaintiff alleged that the Defendant had 197 violations of its permit to discharge limited pollutants in the Delaware River, in violation of the Clean Water Act.
Outcome: Plaintiff and Defendnat filed cross motions for summary judgment. On February 26, 1985, the court denied Defendant's motion for summary judgment or partial summary judgment. It granted Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability, Plaintiff's' motion to amend the complaint, and Defendant's motion to exceed the page limitation in its reply brief. See the opinion here.
Minnesota v. Clover Leaf Creamery Co., No. 79-1171 (1981)
Allegations: Plaintiffs, milk sellers and plastic producers, brought an action against the state of Minnesota seeking to invalidate a Minnesota statute, Minn. Stat. § 116F.21 (1978), which banned the retail sale of milk in certain plastic containers. Plaintiffs argued that the statute was invalid under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Outcome: On January 21, 1981, the Minnesota Ramsey County District Court held that the Act was unconstitutional and unenforceable. The court found that the Act violated the Equal Protection Clause and Commerce Clause, stating that the discrimination against plastic packaging was not related to the objectives of the Act. On appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court, the ruling was affirmed. The State appealed to the Supreme Court. The Court reversed, finding a rational relation between the ban on plastic nonreturnable milk containers and the State objectives. See the opinion here. The Minnesota law in question was repealed in 1981 by H.F. No. 312 Sec. 2.
Am. Petroleum Inst. v. Envtl. Prot. Agency, No. 74-1465 (10th Cir. 1976)
Allegations: Plaintiffs, petroleum refineries, brought an action against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) challenging regulations promulgated by the EPA under the Clean Water Act, which would regulate pollution control that includes plastic discharge. Plaintiffs argued that the regulations promulgated by the EPA were unreasonable. Filed 08/11/1976.
Outcome: On August 11, 1976, the court upheld some of the challenged regulations where the record showed reasonable support, and remanded other regulations for reconsideration because the record failed to show support that was "sufficiently reasonable." See the opinion here.