Oct 31 - FTC Takes Action Against Companies Making False Biodegradable Claims

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced action this week against companies making false and misleading claims of biodegradability on plastic products or additives. In a release, the FTC described its enforcement actions to ensure compliance with its recently revised Green Guides. The Green Guides are designed to ensure accuracy in marketing products with environmental claims.

"It’s no secret that consumers want products that are environmentally friendly, and that companies are trying to meet that need," said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. "But companies that don’t have evidence to support the environmental claims they make about their products erode consumer confidence and undermine those companies that are playing by the rules."

ECM Biofilms, Inc. manufactures an additive which, the FTC states, were falsely marketed as making plastic products biodegradable in a variety of conditions. Two of ECM’s customers, American Plastic Manufacturing and CHAMP, manufactured products (plastic bags and golf tees, respectively) that they claimed were biodegradable.

Clear Choice Housewares, Inc., which makes reusable food containers, and Carnie Cap, Inc. which makes plastic rebar cap covers, were also accused of making false and unsubstantiated environmental claims.

The FTC settled with four of those companies (American Plastic, CHAMP, Clear Choice and Carnie Cap), issuing consent orders which prohibit them from making claims of biodegradability unless they can be supported by reliable scientific evidence. Public comments on the consent packages are being accepted until November 29, 2013. The ECM case will go to trial in mid 2014.

The case against AJM Packaging Corporation, which manufactures paper products including plates, cups, bowls, napkins and bags, was settled and filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia on October 1. AJM was ordered to pay a $450,000 civil penalty for violating a 1994 consent order that barred them from making claims of biodegradability, photodegradability or degradability.

California’s Bioplastics Labeling Law restricts the labeling of plastics as "biodegradable", regardless of plastic type, and allows only verifiable claims that do not deceive consumers. CAW continues to work with State Attorney General Kamala Harris and local district attorneys’ offices to monitor environmental claims on products in California.

If you see a product that you believe has false labeling or "greenwashing," contact your local DA’s office, file a complaint with the FTC, and/or contact CAW staff.

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