Following a public comment period, the Federal Trade Commission has approved three final orders settling charges that Clear Choice Housewares, Inc.; Carnie Cap, Inc.; and MacNeill Engineering Company, doing business as CHAMP, violated the FTC Act by misrepresenting that plastic products they sell that are treated with additives are: 1) biodegradable, 2) biodegradable in a landfill, 3) biodegradable in a certain timeframe, or 4) scientifically shown to be biodegradable in a landfill, or that various scientific tests prove their biodegradability claims. The FTC also alleged that the companies lacked a reliable scientific basis to back up any of these claims.
Under the FTC’s orders, first announced in October, the companies are prohibited from making biodegradability claims unless the representations are true and supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. The companies must have evidence that the entire plastic product will completely decompose into elements found in nature within one year after customary disposal (defined as disposal in a landfill, incinerator, or recycling facility) before making any unqualified biodegradable claim.
In order to make qualified claims, the companies must state the time required for complete biodegradation in a landfill or the time to degrade in a disposal environment near where consumers who buy the product live. Alternatively, the companies may state the rate and extent of degradation in a landfill or other disposal facility accompanied by an additional disclosure that the stated rate and extent do not mean that the product will continue to decompose or decompose completely.
The Commission vote approving the final orders was 4-0 in each case. (FTC File Nos. 122-3288, 122-3290, and 122-3292; the staff contact is Katherine Johnson, Bureau of Consumer Protection, 202-326-2185)
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Mitchell J. Katz
Office of Public Affairs