Category Archives: Labeling and Claims

Court Rules On Landfill Biodegradable Claims

The judgment was a huge win for companies looking to address the plastics they produce that will end up in a landfill, including the support of marketing such biodegradable materials. The judge stood by the science of the matter and recognized legitimate testing. He also recognized the variations that are inherent in any natural process. The complete report is very interesting, so if you need some evening reading take a look at the entire 300 pages. Complete Report

In the meantime, here is a synopsis of the court findings:

  1. Biodegradability is an inherent feature of a material, much like color or IV, the environmental conditions will affect the rate of biodegradation – but it does not change whether the material is biodegradable. Basically, it either is or it isn’t.
  2. Biodegradation is the degradation of a material through the action of naturally occurring living organisms – there is no time frame limitation as the biodegradation time frame is dependent of the environment. This would imply that any material requiring an initial mechanical degradation prior to biodegradation would not be inherently biodegradable.
  3. The only testing valid for landfill biodegradable is anaerobic testing that uses gas production as the measurement for biodegradation (ASTM D5511, ASTM D5526 and Biochemical Methane Potential Testing would all apply). Weight loss is not valid for biodegradation testing. Aerobic testing is not valid for landfill biodegradation validation.
  4. The FTC surveys that concluded consumers believe biodegradable material will go away in less than a year was thrown out as invalid. Instead it was shown that a majority of consumers understand that the rate of biodegradation is dependent on the material and the environment. Hence the one year restriction the FTC has placed would not be scientifically or socially sound.
  5. Biodegradation of additive containing plastics can and does produce biodegradable materials.
  6. It is not appropriate to place a time frame for complete biodegradation as it is dependent upon conditions.
  7. A material need not be tested to complete biodegradation to be considered biodegradable, however the percent of biodegradation validated in the test must be statistically significant and well beyond any additive percentage. (also the background gas production from the inoculum must be accounted for and subtracted from the results).

It is wonderful to see a judge astute enough to recognize the facts and stick with the science regardless of industry pressures and misconceptions!

FTC Finds Company’s “Recyclability” Claims Misleading

Company’s Green Claims for Plastic Lumber Misleading

FTC Order Requires Firm to Have Distributors Take Down Ads With Unsupported Claims

A Wisconsin-based manufacturer of plastic lumber products has agreed to stop making allegedly unsubstantiated claims about the recycled content and recyclability of two of its brands of plastic lumber.

Under the FTC settlement, the company, N.E.W. Plastics Corp., must have credible evidence to support any recycling-related claims it makes, and is required to tell its distributors to remove any marketing material for the two products provided by the company before December 2013.

“Consumers deserve to know the truth about the products they are buying,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Many of them want to buy products that are environmentally friendly, but they can’t do that if they get information that’s wrong or unsupported.”

N.E.W. Plastics Corp., which also does business as Renew Plastics, is based in Luxemburg, Wisconsin, and makes plastic lumber products, including the Evolve and Trimax brands, which are used to make items such as outdoor decking and furniture. It sells the products to consumers through distributors.

In its administrative complaint, the FTC alleges that between September 2012 and March 2013, N.E.W. made false and misleading claims while promoting Evolve and Trimax. Specifically, the company claimed:

    * that Evolve products are made from 90 percent or more recycled content;
    * that Trimax products are made from mostly post-consumer recycled content; and
    * that both Evolve and Trimax are recyclable.

The proposed consent order prohibits N.E.W. from making any statements about the recycled content, post-consumer recycled content, or environmental benefits of any product or package unless they are true, not misleading, and are substantiated by competent and reliable evidence, which for some claims must be scientific evidence.

The proposed order also bars N.E.W. from making unqualified recyclable claims about any product or package, unless the product or package can be recycled in an established recycling program, and such facilities are available to at least 60 percent of consumers or communities where the product or package is sold. If N.E.W. can’t meet these requirements, it must qualify the claim regarding the availability of recycling centers. If only part of a product or package is recyclable, N.E.W. must disclose to consumers which part or portion of the product or package is recyclable.

Finally, the proposed order bars N.E.W. from providing anyone else with the means of making false, misleading, or unsubstantiated claims. The order will end in 20 years.

Information for Consumers

The FTC has new information for consumers in a blog post on its website. Also the FTC provides detailed guidance to businesses on environmental claims in its Green Guides.

To read the full article from the FTC go to http://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2014/02/companys-green-claims-plastic-lumber-misleading

The Truth Shall Set You Free

We produce well over 200 billion pounds of plastic each year.  This is a well-documented environmental issue of grim proportions; plastic is literally trashing our planet.  Brands, manufactures and consumers are fully aware and the search for solutions is in full swing.  Fortunately, our awareness has spurred incredible technological advances to address this problem, some better than others.

As a brand, being environmentally accountable is a trait that serves well in the marketplace.  It’s a hallmark that projects the greater good.  But in a Cass Sunstein meets George Orwell world,  where the FTC, EPA, FDA, IRS, (insert acronym),  are watching your every move and new terms such as Extended Producer Responsibility emerge, it can be paralyzing to make that technological decision.  You want to choose something that is justifiable, reliable and proven.

In a small microcosm of the larger issue, we catch a glimpse of the efforts and problems we face.  In a recent article Coffee Makers wrestling with recyclability of single-serve pods,  TerraCycle is boasting about recovering 25 million coffee capsules over the last couple years, but has essentially found no use for them.  Are we to understand that companies are paying TerraCycle to collect and store these things in some warehouse?  Add to this, according to the article, 41 million adults drink a coffee made in a single-cup brewer every day.  So in a two year effort, TerraCycle could not recover a single days’ worth of coffee capsules?  Clearly, the Customary Disposal Method for this application is the garbage, in other words, the Landfill.   Let’s not jump on a bandwagon for the sake of waiving a green flag, the overall effect is useless.

Here’s one, California is now floating a new Bill to put the burden on companies to find solutions for plastic waste in our waterways.  The same State that bans the claim of biodegradable materials (and has sued companies legitimately making those claims), is now requiring brands and manufacturers to seek out and implement biodegradable solutions?? Are they expecting producers to put their necks on the line in search for innovation? Good luck taking that bait!

Unfortunately, the principle concern of environmental safety is being contaminated with agendas that have not proven capable of long term sustainability.  There is a tendency to gravitate towards colorful Green language instead of clear, black and white solutions.  Today, we have the capability to address plastic pollution on an incredible scale, without contamination.  Unfortunately, too many producers are paralyzed with uncertainty or are turning to the least point of resistance.

A perfect example is the less than bold stand that one of the largest producers of bottled water took, “Lightweighting”.  Holy crap! That’s it?  Reduce your costs and provide a rigid bag for a bottle?  C’mon…the “commitment to minimizing the environmental impact” is lackluster., considering 50 billion plastic water bottles end up in U.S. landfills each year.

Here’s my humble opinion.  Within a generation, we have witnessed the birth of the plastic EVERYTHING.  We began filling-up our Landfills with EVERYTHING and noticed NOTHING was reprocessing back into nature.   The raging river of plastic is pouring onto our planet and we place the majority of this material in Landfills.   There is a biodegradation process in Landfills that is beaming with potential and we have the proven ability to produce, capture and harness one of the most inexpensive and cleanest energy resources and fundamentally address our plastic pollution problem.

Recycling is an industry I support, but the numbers don’t lie and the goal is not to prop-up one particular industry, it’s to clean our planet.  We need to stop kidding ourselves and start dealing with reality.  I also understand Sourcing from renewable resources, but harvesting Corn for plastic in order to claim “Compostable” is absolutely wrong.  I’ve lived in many places over the years and I have yet to find my local Industrial Composting facility.  But if I did, I would respectfully not bring them my plastic waste.  Let’s face it, you can claim it, but it’s not going there and where it is going, this technology does nothing.   For those adding metal into the equation, this technology is borderline criminal.  That probably explains the parasitic tendencies of this technology in underdeveloped countries.  Both of these technologies have an adverse effect on our Food Source/Supply, which alone is highly irresponsible.

When making the decision on how to be accountable for your Plastic Footprint, know what is out there, get the full story and get the proof that it performs as claimed.  If you stand in the light of truth, you will be safe.  70% is greater than 30%, 2+2=4, what’s right is right.

landfill biodegradation

Manufacturers Beware!

Have you ever thought about where your plastic garbage goes?

Shopping for items packaged in plastic may end up costing you more in the long run; that is, if you discard the packaging incorrectly. The same could be true for plastic manufacturers if California passes their latest bill (Assembly Bill 521) on “extended producer responsibility”.

Right now; in San Francisco, California it is against the law to not recycle your trash.  That’s right…you; as a law abiding citizen must separate all of your garbage, recyclables, and compostable items.  To ensure that all citizens are complying with this law, trash auditors check garbage bins the night before it is scheduled for pickup. If you do not comply after several warnings, the non-complying residents will receive fines and/or have to take educational classes on recycling.

Taking this a step further, California is now working towards making plastic manufacturers responsible for the end of life of their product; ultimately, charging hefty fines for material that is not disposed of properly.  (This, after recently making the word biodegradable illegal on labeling)

So who is responsible for all of this plastic pollution that is littering our oceans and filling our landfills? Is it the consumer?  Is it the plastic manufacturer? Is it the recycling industry? (Who happens to discard more plastic than it recycles.) California may think they are doing the right thing by penalizing those who are in the path of plastic – from beginning to end – but they’re not supporting or encouraging better solutions…so who’s fault is it, really?

Despite whose responsibility this may be; it leads to a very important question…”Why are we not producing plastic that is biodegradable or even marine degradable? And, (ok, two questions) if there is a solution, why, as consumers and manufacturers, are we not jumping on that solution?”

I think that if there is a solution to this plastic pollution problem and a plastic manufacturer is using a product that is proven to be biodegradable and/or marine degradable, they are showing their end-of-life responsibility and it should be encouraged and rewarded amongst those companies; as well as, consumers who use such a product.

Does such a product exist?

Yes!

ENSO Plastics has created an additive, that when added to the plastic manufacturing process will cause the plastic to become biodegradable; as well as, marine degradable. There are two customizable blends that offer many options to manufacturers – ENSO RESTORE and ENSO RENEW.

This is the solution California needs to recognize, before they start penalizing all of their citizens and plastic manufacturers. California may want to make the people responsible, but I think the state needs to be responsible by allowing new technology and better options for their residents and local commerce.

Wake up California! The solution is staring you in the face!

 

Are you confused about recycling?

Are You Confused About What to Recycle?

When is the last time you asked yourself or someone else if something was recyclable?  It a common question and one that gets many different answers depending on what packaging or material you are asking the question about.

Most recycling programs will have information readily available to the public on what they will accept in the recycle bins.  This list however is quite small and becomes apparent that what recyclers are looking for is the cream of the crop.  If you are anything like me you put everything in the recycle bin and hope that it will motivate recyclers to start taking more material.

People in general want to do the right thing and truthfully speaking it’s a great feeling to know we are doing our part to help recycle when we do make the effort to recycle.  I suppose someday recycling will become a mainstream religion – to a very few it already is.  I often wonder what recycling would look like if people got paid for their recyclable materials?  After all for decades aluminum cans provided a source of additional funds to many and this resulted in very high recycling rates for aluminum cans.  It would sure make it a little more worth the effort to sort through and place materials in the proper bin.

The April 1st, 2013 issue of Plastics News had a great Viewpoint article by Don Loepp which addressed this very issue as a discussion point from the March Plastics Recycling Conference in New Orleans.

http://www.plasticsnews.com/article/20130321/BLOG01/130329974/plastics-recycling-are-you-still-confused#

If we are going to have recycling be a big part of the environmental solution to the growing global plastic pollution issue we are going to have to get aggressive about our recycling efforts and recyclers will need to be a stakeholder in the bigger environmental mission as much as they are with the business focus of recycling.  All materials have the potential to be recycled, let involve state and federal programs to bring innovation to the market so that recyclers can accept all materials and have markets to sell those materials.

We’d love to hear what you think?

Plastics recycling: Are you still confused?

 

Can I Claim Biodegradable or Compostable?

There has been a bit of lingering confusion by some regarding the recent updates to the FTC Green Guidelines about marketing products with the terms “biodegradable” and/or “compostable”.  We hope to clear up any remaining confusion that might be out there in this blog.

We feel that the recently updated FTC Green Guidelines have really cleared up the past confusing and often ambiguous guidelines regarding marketing claims of biodegradable and compostable.  The FTC in their updated green guidelines have provided clear explanations and examples of appropriate marketing claims that would eliminate confusion among “green” type of claims being made in the market today.  Claims such as ‘biodegradable’, ‘compostable’ and even ‘recyclable’ have been addressed in the updated FTC Green Guidelines and should eliminate any and all confusion that lingered from earlier guidelines.

So can a company make the claim of “biodegradable?”

The answer is yes!  There are two ways to do so:

A company can claim biodegradable if that material biodegrades with a one year timeframe within the customary disposal environment.  The company making that claim should have reliable scientific data to back up the one year timeframe for biodegradation within the customary disposal environment.

Or, for products that are biodegradable but take longer than one year to biodegrade, (After all, even food waste takes longer than a year to biodegrade in a landfill environment) the claim must be fully qualified.

What does “fully qualified” mean?

It means that a company must include additional information along with the claim of biodegradable.  That additional information includes the environment and timeframe.

This approach also applies to claims of compostable.  Products that use the general claim of compostable must compost in a backyard compost environment and compost very rapidly.  For products that will not readily compost in typical backyard compost environments, the claims would need to be fully qualified to include the type of compost environment and if needed the timeframe.

There is a caveat to this, and that is that many compostable plastics require an Industrial or Commercial Compost Facility in order to properly compost.  These facilities are not readily available to most of the world and so the availability of placing the compostable product into the proper disposal environment should be included in with the marketing claims.

And what about the claim “recyclable”?

Most polymers are technically but unfortunately are not.  With recyclability claims be sure to use a qualified claim if less than 60% of consumers have access to facilities that recycle your product.

The general idea behind the updated FTC green Guidelines is to minimize or prevent confusion about environmental claims being made about a product and/or the products packaging.  ENSO fully supports this approach and we believe it is crucial that green marketing claims are as accurate and complete as possible so not to result in confusing or misleading claims.

If you would like additional information on this subject please feel free to contact us.

Labeling is a part of Education

 

 

With all of the amazing efforts to create products that push toward a more green disposal process consumers are being left holding the product and feeling a little unsure  just how to dispose of it. This is due to a lack of understanding terminology and a lack of           clear labeling on the products. The first product that comes to mind when I think of this topic is Sun Chips. According to the Sun Chips website they have the first 100% compostable chip bag. There website includes a section called “Composting 101” that explains the process of disposal that can be found here Compostable Packaging 101 – Sun Chips

This is great but what do the actual bags tell you to do? On the back of the Sun Chips bag it states that in about 13 weeks there will be a “breakdown into compost in a hot, active home or industrial compost pile”  it then states “Don’t compost yet? Learn more about our bag, what it’s made of and how to compost effectively at www.SunChips.com”  The bag is vague and pushes consumers to visit their website to actually learn how to dispose of it. There’s nothing wrong with this but if you are driving in your car on a road trip you may find it tempting to just chunk the bag in the garbage rather than holding on to it until you get home so you can visit the website and learn how to compost it. If the labeling on the back of the bag just gave the instructions I think consumers would see that the whole process is so simple.

By making consumers go visit your website it seems like there is too much information to include on the bag and that can seem daunting to a consumer. We live in a world where people want instant information at their fingertips. Why not just include the instructions on the labeling of the bag?  This blog is not picking on Sun Chips but simply just recognizing that if companies were to label products more clearly we as consumers would know just how to dispose of the products instead of just giving up because we do not understand.

 

Here are some key terms you should know to help you better understand all those labels out there.

 

Industrial composting refers to large scale composting systems that are being used more commonly as an alternative to landfills. Here is a short video that will show you an example industrial composting. More info here

Home composting refers to a process that can be done in most backyards in a homemade or manufactured compost bin or even an open pile. The bins should include 4 ingredients: nitrogen, carbon, water and air.  For more details on home composting visit this site More info here

Biodegradation refers to when plastic or any other material degrades over a period of time.  Biodegradation can occur in either aerobic (with oxygen) or anaerobic (without oxygen) environments.

ENSO plastics do not begin to biodegrade until the plastic is placed into a highly microbial environment i.e. landfill.  Once placed in a microbial environment the ENSO additive has a microbial attractant to help facilitate microbial colonization. Once microbes have colonized on the plastic they digest the additive which causes the production of specific enzymes within the microbes. These enzymes are the key to plastic biodegradation. The microbes break down the resulting material through atomic reorganization to use some of the atoms as energy and leaves behind either methane (anaerobic) or CO2 (aerobic) and inert humus.  Having the plastic biodegrade from microbial digestion is the natural process of everything and does not leave behind any polymer residue or toxic materials.

Degradation can be initiated by oxygen, ultra violet light or heat.  In many cases these products begin to degrade the moment they are manufactured which leads to a shortened useful life. When something is degradable it means the plastic is only broken down or fragments into smaller and smaller pieces and will never completely disappear.