FTC cracks down on biodegradability claims

By Jeremy Carroll
Assistant Managing Editor

Published: October 30, 2013 10:31 pm ET
Updated: October 30, 2013 10:40 pm ET

Related to this story

Topics Materials, Sustainability, Government & Legislation, Legal, Grocery bags, Materials Suppliers

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has taken aim at five plastics companies, alleging they used false or misleading claims of biodegradability. But one of those companies plans to fight the charges, saying it will win in the long run.

In an announcement of the action, the FTC said ECM BioFilms Inc., American Plastic Manufacturing, CHAMP, Clear Choice Housewares Inc. and Carnie Cap Inc. all made claims of their plastic being biodegradable which were unsupported, the agency said. All but ECM BioFilms have agreed to a consent agreement.

ECM BioFilms, based in Painesville, Ohio, claims that plastic products manufactured with the company’s additives will biodegrade in biologically-active environments after more than a year. The company uses an asterisk on its marketing materials when using the word “biodegradable,” pointing to the fact that it will take longer than a year for the material to biodegrade in landfills.

According to FTC's latest Green Guides, a company is allowed to market a product as biodegradable without a qualifier if the product breaks down in less than a year. FTC does not have guidelines on how to market products with a qualifier, the company alleges.

“We believe fully that we’re going to win in the long run,” ECM BioFilms President Robert Sinclair said in an interview with Plastics News.

He said the company has independent tests that show the products biodegrades in atmospheres that mimics landfills. A previous notice on its products said it would biodegrade in nine months to five years.

“[The FTC] can’t get themselves around it. They are going against the science,” Sinclair said.

The FTC alleges that the company misrepresents that plastics made from the additives are biodegradable and will completely break down “within a reasonably short period of time,” that the plastics will biodegrade in a landfill and that scientific tests prove ECM’s claims.

The complaint says ECM should be prohibited from making the claims.

Two of the other companies named by FTC, American Plastic Manufacturing and CHAMP, are customers of ECM. American Plastic Manufacturing sold plastic shopping bags that were marketed as biodegradable and CHAMP sold plastic golf tees marketed as biodegradable, FTC alleges.

Clear Choice Housewares and Carnie Cap are facing similar allegations. FTC said Clear Choice Housewares was a customer of another additive manufacturer, Bio-Tec Environmental, and marketed “biodegradable” plastic food storage containers. Carnie Cap used an additive manufactured and marketed by Ecologic for its plastic rebar cap covers, which claimed was “100 percent biodegradable,” FTC alleged.

All of the companies are not facing a financial penalty, but agreed to stop using the marketing.

FTC said the action is to ensure compliance with the agency’s Green Guides.

“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, in a statement. “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.”

FTC has scheduled a hearing for ECM in June.


Comments

FTC cracks down on biodegradability claims

By Jeremy Carroll
Assistant Managing Editor

Published: October 30, 2013 10:31 pm ET
Updated: October 30, 2013 10:40 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

McCann expanding in Ohio

December 17, 2014 11:59 am ET

Compounding firm McCann Plastics will spend $1.2 million on an expansion project that will create 15 new jobs at its plant in Green, Ohio.    More

Image

New extruders, repelletizer to improve production for InterGroup

December 17, 2014 6:00 am ET

InterGroup International Ltd. will install new, larger extruders and repelletizers at all three of its plastic scrap recycling locations in 2015.    More

Image

Investments allow UK's Jayplas to keep recycling supply chain at home

December 17, 2014 9:32 am ET

Corby, England-based plastics recycler Jayplas has announced the completion of a new extrusion and printing plant, together with a new packaging...    More

Image

Ecojug trims HDPE from milk jugs

December 17, 2014 8:57 am ET

United Diary Inc. has saved 1.7 million pounds of high density polythylene during the production of 80 million of its new Ecojug milk jug design...    More

French firm acquires Zimmer-brand polymer technology

December 15, 2014 4:18 pm ET

The deal includes technologies for the processing of polyesters and nylons, and approximately 40 researchers and engineers.    More

Market Reports

Flexible Packaging Trends in North America

Our latest RESEARCH report examines trends in FLEXIBLE PACKAGING impacting the North American market including a review of economic conditions, key drivers of growth, materials pricing, M&A activity, sustainability challenges and the outlook for 2015.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Plastics in Mexico - State of the Industry Report

This report analyzes the $20 billion plastics industry in Mexico including sales of machinery & equipment, resins and finished products.

Our analysts provide insight on business trends, foreign investment, top end markets and plastics processing activity. The report also provides important data on exports, production, employment and value of plastics products manufactured.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

October 27, 2015 - October 29, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - New York - 2015

More Events