FTC Approves Final Orders Settling Charges that Three Companies Made Misleading and Unsubstantiated Biodegradeability Claims for Their Plastic Products

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)

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

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