A lawsuit questioning mail-in recycling claims by TerraCycle Inc. and several consumer brands has been settled, with the companies agreeing to modify some product labels and implement a supply chain certification program.
The environmental group The Last Beach Cleanup said Nov. 15 that it has reached a settlement with the companies over a lawsuit challenging the effectiveness of TerraCycle's programs to reprocess hard-to-recycle packaging.
LBC founder Jan Dell said the consumer product companies, including Coca-Cola Co., Procter & Gamble Co. and Clorox, agreed to change some product labeling and TerraCycle agreed to implement a supply chain certification program.
"The settlement agreement represents progress in truth-in-labeling and requiring verification of recycling claims, but the lawsuit could only achieve what established U.S. and California laws require," LBC said. "There is no specific law against companies promoting high-carbon-emission, nonscalable solutions that masquerade as real solutions."
The group said long-distance recycling mail-back programs like those operated by TerraCycle "have significant environmental impacts that outweigh the meager benefits of downcycling the plastic products into picnic tables or park benches."
It said under a new law passed in California this year, the first major rewrite of labeling rules in the U.S., products in the TerraCycle programs could not be labeled as "recyclable" because they could be handled by curbside programs in the state.
LBC said TerraCycle agreed to pay its legal costs.
TerraCycle, which is headquartered in Trenton, N.J., said in a statement that it did not pay any damages and that under the settlement there are no changes in how it operates.
"The only material outcome of the settlement is that participation limits, if any exist, for TerraCycle National Recycling Programs will be disclosed on brand partners' labels and advertising," the company said. "This is a change we are happy to implement."
The company said it had been developing new auditing standards before LBC contacted it.
"There have been no material changes in how TerraCycle performs any aspect of its operations as a result of this settlement," it said. "TerraCycle had been developing new standards in recycling auditing well before LBC first contacted us."
The company said it's agreed to provide a summary of its U.S. audit to LBC annually.
TerraCycle said it has "been working for nearly two decades as a mission-driven recycling company to address it and will continue to be at the forefront of new and innovative solutions to eliminate the idea of waste."
The lawsuit also involved L'Oreal SA, Tom's of Maine, Gerber Products Co. and Late July Snacks.
Dell said she was also challenging a similar program at snack food maker Mondelēz International Inc. for its "Hoop Heroes" program for Oreos packaging, operated with TerraCycle.