A recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ruling under its Green Guides regulations highlights increased government enforcement efforts on labeling requirements to prevent greenwashing.

In its ruling, the FTC precluded ECM BioFilms from using the label “biodegradable” on its plastics based products and packaging. The FTC determined that BioFilms’s use of the label was deceptive and based on unsubstantiated environmental claims. According to the ruling, to label a plastic product as biodegradable, the company must substantiate the claim with competent and reliable scientific evidence and ensure that either:

1) the entire plastic item will completely decompose into elements found in nature within five years after customary disposal; or

2) the claim is clearly and prominently qualified by either the time for complete decomposition or the type of non-customary disposal required and the availability of such disposal facilities.

The FTC’s decision follows in the footsteps of its recent crackdown on other companies’ false or misleading environmental marketing claims.  ECM Bioflims is planning on appealing the decision. Stay tuned.

Read the full article about the FTC’s ruling here.

AUTHOR'S NOTE 12/20/15:  The Sustainable Packaging Coalition issued a position paper against the use of the additives that are the basis of these biodegradable claims.  The paper's main points are:

 

  • These plastic products may undergo extensive fragmentation, creating micro-pollution before biodegrading.
  • When petroleum-based plastics degrade, they release greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The plastics, even with the additive, don’t contribute to compostability by returning beneficial nutrients to the environment.
  • Their use has not been shown to prevent adverse effects on recycling.

Download the full position paper here.