WASHINGTON - The Federal Trade Commission's 3-year-old guides on environmental marketing claims are working and shouldn't be changed radically. That was the message most of the nearly 100 groups and businesses gave the FTC in formal comments as part of the commission's review. The FTC asked for feedback in July, and the comment period closed Sept. 29.
Most commenters agreed the guidelines have reduced misleading environmental claims and simplified the marketing landscape for businesses that sell their products nationally.
Groups on opposing sides of some familiar recycling disputes re-aired their views. But industry representatives and recycling advocates predicted that the commission will refrain from major changes when it digests the comments and considers how the guides can be improved.
A follow-up workshop, originally set for Nov. 13-14, now will take place Dec. 7-8, the FTC announced. About 50 organizations have asked to participate, said Michael Dershowitz, a senior lawyer in the FTC's division of advertising practices.
The guides outline general principles for making responsible environmental claims regarding, for example, a product's recycled content, recyclability or degradability. The guides do not carry the force of law.
However, the FTC can use its general authority under the Federal Trade Commission Act to sanction marketers making misleading green claims. And an increasing number of states have changed their environmental-marketing laws to conform to the FTC guides, a trend applauded by businesses bewildered in the past by the hodgepodge of state restrictions.
Prominent in several comments was the dispute over the resin indicator placed on the bottom of plastic containers to help consumers separate their recyclables. After negotiating for more than a year, the National Recycling Coalition and the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. last summer declared an impasse.
NRC said the use of the chasing arrows can confuse the public into thinking all or most types of plastic are widely recycled. SPI agreed to replace the symbol with a triangle, but the NRC wanted a four-sided shape to differentiate the indicator even more.
Both groups asked the FTC to uphold their views.
Other comments revolved around the use of the chasing arrows and the phrase, ``Please recycle,'' and whether they amount to a blanket claim of recyclability without any qualifying information.