October 14, 2022
Another wrinkle in the war on plastics looms on the horizon, according to a new study: Billions of dollars’ worth of legal claims against the petrochemicals industry tied to human harm caused by plastic pollution.
US makers of plastics and additives are the likely primary targets, the study said, with claims potentially exceeding $20 billion through 2030 and “an order of magnitude larger” after that, according to a press release from the Minderoo Foundation, an NGO crusading against the use of fossil fuels that spearheaded the study.
“Corporations have polluted this world with billions of tonnes of plastic products and continue to do so despite knowing that many contain toxic chemicals that arrest cognitive development, reduce reproductive viability, and increase cardiovascular disease and obesity,” said Dr Andrew Forrest AO, chairman of the Minderoo Foundation. “Our research accelerates the growing list of health risks. It is only a matter of time before the courts, regulators, and lawmakers determine who will pay the cost of poisoning our planet and people."
Warning that petrochemical companies face “colossal” liability claims, the foundation urged the plastics industry, shareholders, insurers, and regulators to “disclose the scale of exposures and liabilities to date, to prevent further damage and set aside the resources necessary to deal with the consequences.”
The foundation asserted that the societal impact of plastic pollution exceeds $100 billion a year. Those effects range from medical treatments and shortened life expectancy to environmental degradation and cleanup.
Partners to the study included U.K.-based law firm Clyde & Co. and Los Angeles liability risk consultancy Praedicat. The research was supported by the U.N. Environment Programme’s Finance Initiative.
“This report is a fact-based resource to guide the efforts in preventing further accumulation of plastic-related toxins — the natural, health-related and economic scale of damage is now starkly clear, and collectively we must act for change,” stressed Geoff Summerhayes, former executive board member of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and former chair of UNEP’s Sustainable Insurance Forum. “We need to understand what we’re dealing with so that industry and insurers alike can set aside the resources required to deal with the consequences.”
The American Chemistry Council has published a statement in response, which you can read here.
The Minderoo Foundation describes itself as a philanthropic organization seeking to break down barriers, innovate and drive positive, lasting change. It is behind the No Plastic Waste initiative, which aims to create “a world without plastic pollution – a truly circular plastics economy where fossil fuels are no longer used to produce plastics.”
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