The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is continuing to crack down on "greenwashing" claims. Similar to its February case against N.E.W. Plastics Corp., the FTC has another case on recycled content claims made by plastic lumber companies. A June 19th press release announced the FTC's proposed settlement which will prohibit the American Plastic Lumber Inc. (APL) from making misleading statements about the environmental benefit and amount of post-consumer recyled content in its products.
The APL is a California based plastic lumber company that distributes products such as trash bins, benches, tables, wheel stops, and speed bumps. However, since 2011 APL's advertisements and marketing have implied that their products are made entirely out of post-consumer recyled content. Upon further investigation, however, it was found that the products contained an average of less than 79 percent post-consumer content. In fact, 8 percent of their products contained no post consumer content whatsoever, and 7 percent contained only 15 percent post-consumer content.
With these deceptive claims, the APL violates both the FTC's Green Guides, and section 5 of the FTC Act, which prohibits deceptive acts or practice in commerce. The proposed consent order prohibits the APL from advertising claims about the recycled content, post-consumer recycled content, or any other environmental claim unless they are "true, not misleading, and can be substantiated by competent and reliable evidence." It also stipulates that experts in the scientific field may request competent and reliable scientific evidence if neccessary. The APL must substantiate any claims made by demonstrating that the product material was in fact recovered from the waste stream, and provide the FTC with all advertising and promotional material, as well as all tests, reports, and evidence to support and refute their claims.
The commission unanimously voted to file the complaint and proposed consent order, and after a public comment period, will vote to finalize it on July 21st, 2014.
Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection responds by noting, "The FTC takes environmental marketing very seriously, and works hard to ensure that consumers are not misled when it comes to 'green' claims." We applaud the work of the FTC to regulate environmental claims, respect the integrity of recycling efforts, and protect consumers.
Learn more about CAW's work on false environmental advertising.
Or take action, and submit products with false environmental claims directly to the FTC.