Not-so-fantastic recycled plastic?

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When comparing products made of plastic lumber – picnic tables, benches, trash bins, and the like – many consumers and businesses factor in environmental considerations.  So when California-based American Plastic Lumber suggested its products were made virtually entirely out of post-consumer recycled content like milk jugs and detergent bottles, it’s understandable that shoppers would take note.  But according to the FTC, buyers didn’t get the benefit they bargained for.

The FTC says the products contained no more than 79% post-consumer content, on average.  What’s more, about 8% of American Plastic Lumber’s products contained no post-consumer recycled content at all, and nearly 7% were made with only 15% post-consumer content – nowhere near the total the company suggested in marketing materials that ran from 2011 to 2013.

To settle the allegations, the company has agreed to change how it advertises its products.  The proposed order prohibits deceptive claims about the recycled content, post-consumer recycled content, or other environmental benefit of any product or packaging.   Sound familiar?  The terms are similar to the the FTC's recent settlement with another plastic lumber company, N.E.W. Plastics Corporation.  You can file online comments about the American Plastic Lumber settlement by July 21, 2014.

Do the latest law enforcement actions have you thinking about your own environmental claims?  The good news for business is that the FTC's Green Guides spell out the specifics.  Applying the standards in the Recycled content claims section of the Guides could keep your post-consumer content representations off the FTC's radar screen.


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