Four large retailers selling plastic dog waste bags have agreed to pay nearly $1.8 million to California prosecutors to settle complaints that they made misleading greenwashing marketing claims about the biodegradability of the bags.
Chewy Inc., PetSmart LLC, Petco Animal Supplies Inc. and Target Corp. all agreed to pay the state between $300,000 and $600,000 each to settle the complaint and to stop making the marketing claims, according to an Aug. 11 press release from Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley.
She said the settlement was reached on behalf of her office and 22 other local district attorneys in the state.
"These settlements are a win for California consumers who want accurate information about the environmental impact of the plastic bags and other plastic products they buy," O'Malley said.
O'Malley said the bags were marketed with misleading eco-friendly claims that they are biodegradable, that they broke down more easily than other plastic bags or, in some cases, that they were "plastic-free" when they were made from plastic.
She said the biodegradability claims are deceptive because the landfills where the bags are disposed of are not designed to biodegrade their contents, with the lack of sunlight, moisture and oxygen in effect "mummifying" trash. Biodregedation in landfills can produce methane, a greenhouse gas, she said.
As well, she said dog waste should not be composted.
O'Malley said false claims about biodegradability can be used to deceive consumers into paying a premium.
"As the public becomes more concerned with plastic pollution and single-use plastics, customers are often willing to pay more for products that they believe will help the environment," her office said.
The statement said all the companies cooperated with authorities.
"After California prosecutors contacted the four companies regarding sales of these products, each took immediate steps to stop the sales and cooperated with prosecutors to refine their processes to ensure ongoing compliance with the law and to reach a settlement," O'Malley's office said.
Chewy agreed to pay $600,000, PetSmart $500,000, Petco $375,000 and Target $300,000.
The Mercury News in San Jose quoted Target saying that the company depends on vendors to meet marketing standards and quickly took the products from stores in California.