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FTC warns on compostable claims

By: Anthony Clark

November 6, 2012

WASHINGTON (Nov. 6, 12:45 p.m. ET) — The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has issued a revised version of its Green Guide, which warns against misleading claims regarding compostable plastics.

FTC had two concerns – the first related to the limited availability of industrial composting facilities where plastics are accepted; the second related to the performance of compostable plastics in home and industrial composting.

The commission therefore warned that “to avoid deception about the limited availability of municipal or institutional composting facilities a marketer should clearly and prominently qualify compostable claims if such facilities are not available to a substantial majority of consumers or communities where the item is sold.”

Given that most compostable plastics cannot be handled by home-composting the guide indicates that firms should clearly and prominently qualify compostable claims to avoid deception if the item cannot be composted safely in a home compost device.

FTC also warned against making potentially misleading claims about a material’s “renewable” credentials and said that any “compostable” claim must be substantiated by reliable scientific evidence that the entire item would break down in a safe and timely manner in an appropriate composting facility or a home composting pile.