US city Baltimore in the state of Maryland has initiated legal action against several prominent beverage and plastic manufacturers, holding them accountable for the reported environmental damage caused by plastic pollution.  

The lawsuit was filed on 20 June 2024 by Baltimore mayor Brandon Scott, the City Council of Baltimore, Milberg Coleman Bryson Phillips Grossman, Napoli Shkolnik, and Smouse & Mason. 

It targets major industry players such as PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, and Frito Lay, among others, for the cleanup costs incurred by the city. 

The presence of discarded plastic waste is a growing concern in the city, with materials such as bottles, bags, and containers contributing to the proliferation of microplastics.   

However, the defendants reportedly continue to scale up their plastic production while endorsing sustainability. 

Baltimore’s lawsuit includes allegations of false claims, failure to warn, design defects, deceptive practices, and violations of state and local laws.  

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The city has estimated its expenditure on cleaning up such waste at $70m between 2018 and 2022.  

With the new lawsuit, the city is following in the footsteps of New York.  

Smouse & Mason managing partner Roy Mason said: “Everywhere you look, you find discarded plastic bottles, bags, and food containers littering our city, to the point that it has become normal – or that’s what the defendants would like you to think. 

“Our lawsuit sends the message that none of this is normal. It’s the result of a corporate misinformation campaign with the usual corporate motive: profit at any cost.” 

Recent studies, including one published in the New England Journal of Medicine, have linked microplastics to severe health issues such as heart attacks and strokes. 

Furthermore, research has identified that more than 20% of global plastic pollution can be traced back to just a handful of companies, with Coca-Cola and PepsiCo being significant contributors. 

Napoli Shkolnik partner Paul Napoli said: “Coca-Cola and Pepsi like to talk publicly about their recycling and sustainability initiatives, but single-use, disposable plastic packaging is among the most littered – and harmful – products ever made, and these companies have privately known since the 1970s that recycling them is practically impossible.”