A recent article in Waste & Recycling News interviewed Steve Mojo, Executive Director of the Biodegradable Product Institute (BPI), about confusing advertising labels on green consumer products. The article highlights not only consumer confusion in deciphering what the packaging claims really mean, but also misunderstanding on the end of the manufacturers, making self verification of such claims critical to avoid greenwashing.
The article cited one product which "claimed its product was compostable and 100 percent renewable when it actually contained 52 percent petroleum-based polypropylene." Essentially, many companies are not thoroughly doing their research to support their scientific claims. You can visit our website for a breakdown of what commonly used environmental advertising terms mean, and how to decipher legitimate claims from deceptive ones by clicking here.
Mojo also warned against "biodegradable" products that use additives such as EcoPure, Enso, Reverte, and EcoMax, noting that there is "very little data to support that additives will degrade." There's also uncertainty about the health impacts of those additives if in fact they do degrade and are used in compost to grow food products.
Recently, BPI conducted a test on one bottled water company, Aquamantra (which uses the Enso additive), to see if their product actually biodegrades. According to the article, after 2 months, the degradation process stops completely. The company claims on their website that their bottles, if disposed of in landfills, will break down in 1-5 years. Mojo says this statistic is acquired through extrapolation, a method unsuitable for the biodegradation process since the rate varies over time, as shown in the BPI test.
CAW has always supported efforts to promote the disuse of the term "biodegradable" due to the lack of a broadly accepted scientific standard and such widespread use of these additives. SB 567 (DeSaulnier) is a bill we are supporting this year to help accomplish just that. In California, it is already against the law to label plastic food containers or plastic bags as "biodegradable," but SB 567 will expand this law to include all plastic products.
To track the status of SB 567, visit our legislative page.