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Coming Litigation Storm Over Plastics

Plastic refuse floating deep under the sea.

October 31, 2022

A number of news outlets, including BNN Bloomberg, have reported a recent study predicting that massive litigation targeting the plastics industry is imminent and that it could result in liabilities of up to $20 billion for companies and their insurers over the next eight years. The study comes from the Minderoo Foundation, partly in collaboration with London-based law firm Clyde & Co and Praedicat, a risk analytics company based in Culver City, CA. The Minderoo Foundation was co-founded by Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest, who made his fortune through mining and cattle, and remains foundation president. Forrest and his wife are said to have donated more than $1.6 billion “to address modern slavery, ocean health, cancer, indigenous disparity, childhood development, artificial intelligence, disaster resilience, and plastic waste.”

The plastics report can be found on the Minderoo website, in a number of pieces which are called “annexes.” In a section of the report written by Praedicat (titled Quantifying plastic risk to corporates and their insurers),  the writers call asbestos litigation a “useful reference point” for insurers who will need to address these risks, but stop short of saying the risks are comparable. Nonetheless, the writers go on to say that “the contours of potential plastic litigation are similar in scope to other large casualty risks past and present such as asbestos and PFAS.”

Bloomberg BNA, in its article about the report, includes a comment from the Plastics Industry Association. That trade group maintains that if you do the math, plastic outperforms alternatives in “cost and sustainability,” and that “litigation will divert funding and resources from the solutions that actually address plastic waste”.

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