Labeling products “biodegradable” or “compostable” can be a costly mistake — even a $1 million mistake, as Walmart found out earlier this month.
The retailer agreed to pay $1 million to settle claims that it sold plastic products that were misleadingly labeled, in violation of California law. California law that bans products labeled “biodegradable” and requires those labeled “compostable” to meet ASTM compostability standards. More than 20 California district attorney’s offices brought the case against Walmart.
Other states are following California’s lead, Resource Recycling reports.
As states adopt similar laws, “then certainly you’ll see cases being brought using that legislation,” Cary Oshins, associate director of the US Composting Council, told the magazine. The US Composting Council has written model legislation for regulating labels.
And Bob Lilienfeld, who works with the American Institute for Packaging and the Environment, suggests companies play it safe by complying with California’s law across all labels and products: “Your best course of action is to follow the toughest state regulation you can find,” he said.
This is not only an issue at the state level, however. The Federal Trade Commission has also been cracking down on false and misleading environmental claims, including biodegradable plastic claims.