April 24, 2023 – A group of twenty-one environmental organizations, community groups, and businesses – led by Just Zero and The Last Beach Clean Up – are calling on the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) to crackdown on corporate greenwashing. The groups submitted a joint comment letter that calls on the FTC to develop enforceable regulations that limit the ability of companies to claim their products or packaging as recyclable unless there is proof that the materials are collected, sorted, and used to manufacture a new product. The comments emphasized the significant and widespread environmental and public health harms that result from consumers purchasing unrecyclable products and attempting to recycle them.
“For far too long, companies have been lying to consumers about the recyclability of plastics,” said Peter Blair, Policy Director with Just Zero. “These lies prey on consumers desire to purchase environmentally friendly products. The FTC needs to end this greenwashing by developing clear rules that only allow companies to claim a product or packaging is recyclable if it is actually being recycled.”
This is the first time in over a decade that the FTC is accepting public comment on its Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims, more commonly known as the “Green Guides.” The Green Guides play a significant role in directing how the FTC evaluates environmental marketing claims. While they are not binding regulations, the guidelines help regulators, companies, and courts in evaluating whether companies have complied with federal and state laws prohibiting unfair, false, or deceptive environmental marketing claims.
The decision to update the Green Guides comes at a critical moment. Consumers increasingly look to buy sustainable and environmentally friendly products. Meanwhile, companies continue to design and package their products in polluting and toxic plastic. Worse, many companies falsely label these plastic products and packaging as recyclable – even though there is no evidence these products are actually recycled.
“Plastic recycling is an elaborate myth,” said Jan Dell, Founder of The Last Beach Clean Up. “Virtually no plastic generated in this country is actually recycled. Yet companies continue to falsely market their products as recyclable in a direct effort to mislead consumers. We cannot allow this blatant greenwashing to continue. The FTC needs to adopt enforceable regulations that prohibit companies from claiming their products or packaging are recyclable unless they can prove the materials are collected, sorted, and actually recycled to create a new product.”
Comments are due April 24th, and the guides are expected to be updated later this year. The full comment letter can be accessed online.