FTC Issues Final Order Settling Misleading Biodegradability Claims

FTC Issues Final Order Settling Misleading Biodegradability Claims

In another demonstration of its renewed focus on “green claims” following the FTC’s 2013 Green Guides revision, the FTC announced that it settled with American Plastic Manufacturing, Inc. allegations that the company made false biodegradability claims for its products. The settlement is the fourth in a set of green marketing cases that the FTC announced in October 2013. Although this settlement does not require the company to pay a fine, a previous settlement included a $450,000 fine. The FTC traditionally has viewed plastic biodegradability claims with some disfavor, and California expressly prohibits most such claims (see California Public Resources Code § 42357) [enhanced version available to lexis.com subscribers].

The settlement prohibits American Plastics from making misleading or unsubstantiated biodegradability claims. To make a qualified claim, the company must have scientific evidence that its product decomposes into an element found in nature within one year of customary disposal (i.e., landfill, recycling facility, or incinerator) within the environment where the product is purchased. If the product does not decompose completely within a year, the company may disclose the extent to which the product degrades and state that the product may not ever decompose completely.

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