Learn about FTC updates, EPR program recycling rates, PlantBottles, Volume 6, Issue 5

Learn about FTC updates, EPR program recycling rates, PlantBottles

Volume 6, Issue 5

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FTC updates guidelines for ‘green’ marketing

Revised Green Guides, issued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Washington, DC, help marketers ensure that the claims they make about the environmental attributes of a product are truthful and non-deceptive.

The revisions update the Guides and add sections on the use of carbon offsets, “green” certifications and seals, and renewable energy and renewable materials claims. Among other modifications, the Guides caution marketers not to make broad, unqualified claims like “environmentally friendly” or “eco-friendly.” The FTC’s consumer perception study shows these claims tend to make consumers think the product has specific and far-reaching environmental benefits. However, few products, if any, have all the attributes consumers seem to connect to such claims, making them nearly impossible to substantiate.

The Guides also:

  • Advise marketers not to make an unqualified degradable claim for a solid waste product unless they can prove that the entire product or package will completely break down and return to nature within one year after customary disposal;
  • Caution that items destined for landfills, incinerators or recycling facilities will not degrade within a year, so marketers should not make unqualified degradable claims for these items; and
  • Clarify guidance on compostable, ozone, recyclable, recycled-content and source-reduction claims.

A new section on certifications and seals of approval emphasizes that certifications and seals may be considered endorsements that are covered by the FTC’s Endorsement Guides. Examples illustrate how marketers could disclose a “material connection” that might affect the weight or credibility of an endorsement. In addition, the Guides caution marketers not to use environmental certifications or seals that don’t clearly convey the basis for the certification.
The FTC first issued its Green Guides in 1992 to help marketers avoid making misleading environmental claims. It revised the Guides in 1996 and 1998, and proposed further revisions in October 2010 to take into account changes in the marketplace. The most recent update considers nearly 340 unique comments and more than 5,000 total comments received in response to the revisions proposed in 2010. Input from three public workshops and a study of how consumers perceive and understand environmental claims also is included.
The Green Guides are not rules or regulations, but describe the types of environmental claims the FTC may find deceptive under Section 5 of the FTC Act. Under Section 5, the agency can take enforcement action against deceptive claims.
The FTC also released several business and consumer education resources designed to help users understand the Guides, including

  • Environmental Claims – Summary of Green Guides, a four-page summary of the changes at www.ftc.gov/os/2012/10/greenguidessummary.pdf;
  • The Green Guides, a video explaining highlights of the changes;
  • A new page on the FTC Business Center with links to legal documents, the Guides and other “green” content;
  • A Business Center blog post; and
  • Related consumer information.

Avoiding FTC Enforcement Action Related to Green Claims

  • Be clear and specific about environmental-benefit claims.
  • Be careful about using environmental certifications and seals of approval in advertising.
  • Keep marketing and compliance departments on the same page.
  • Check the Green Guides carefully before using any green term.

Source: Thomas A. Cohn, partner, LeClairRyan, Richmond, VA


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EPR programs may not achieve highest recycling rates

Extended producer responsibility (EPR) programs, which shift the cost of managing post-use products, partially or fully, from local governments to the producers of those products don’t appear to be a desirable solution for the United States.

A study by SAIC, McLean, VA, for the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), Washington, DC, shows U.S. communities and states with the best non-EPR schemes achieve high municipal solid waste recycling rates at reasonable costs, while addressing a wider spectrum of the waste stream. Although common in Europe and often credited for high recycling rates in countries like Germany, the report says, mandatory EPR programs aimed at food, beverage and consumer product packaging would not deliver more cost-effective residential recycling programs or drive redesign of packages to increase sustainability.

“The food, beverage and consumer products industry is committed to environmental stewardship and reducing its impact on the environment,” stated Meghan Stasz, senior director of sustainability at GMA, during a presentation about the study in September 2012 at the Sustainable Packaging Forum in Pittsburgh, PA. “As part of this commitment, America’s food, beverage and consumer products industry is working to identify efficient, holistic waste reduction and recycling solutions that work for consumers and communities, and this analysis by SAIC tells us that EPR does not meet those standards.”

To determine whether mandatory EPR policies for packaging better meet the environmental objectives of the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry in the United States, SAIC analyzed recycling rates, system costs, packaging changes and other data from various European and Canadian jurisdictions with EPR programs. The researchers also studied recycling and waste management data for areas of the United States with high recycling rates, such as Ramsey County, Minnesota (metropolitan Minneapolis-St. Paul), a non-EPR region where the county and its cities have put many model municipal recycling policies and practices in place. Key findings were:

  • EPR does not necessarily result in improved overall recycling rates. At 24%, the recycling rate of all municipal solid waste in the United States where there is no packaging EPR, exceeds Canada’s 18% and the European Union’s (EU) 23%.
  • EPR does not necessarily prompt changes in packaging design and selection. Despite a faster-growing GDP, packaging use in the United States declined at a faster rate than in the EU, where EPR is common.
  • EPR does not necessarily make waste and recycling systems more efficient or otherwise decrease costs. Ramsey County, Minnesota, has a lower net cost per ton ($156) than EPR programs in Manitoba ($166) and Ontario ($202).
  • States and municipalities already have at their disposal a suite of non-EPR policies that are effective and efficient in terms of raising recycling rates without increasing costs or administrative burdens.

“The CPG industry is focused on responsible solutions that address solid waste across the entire lifecycle – from design to disposal to recovery – and that account not only for packaging, but food waste as well,” continued Stasz. “The most successful recycling and waste recovery programs will result from comprehensive approaches that leverage industry innovation and collaborative partnerships between NGO’s, government and industry, not one-size-fits-all mandates,” she concludes. For a copy of the report, visit www.gmaonline.org/file-manager/Sustainability/GMA_SAIC_EPR_Report_091112.pdf.

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Center for Sustainable Packaging starts up at RIT

American Packaging Corp. (APC) and The Wegman Family Charitable Foundation have donated $2.2 million to establish the Center for Sustainable Packaging at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in their home town, Rochester, NY. The Center will allow students, researchers, faculty and corporate partners to test sustainable packaging ideas. It also will educate the next generation of packaging professionals intent on bringing sustainable principles to manufacturers around the world.

RIT will supply faculty expertise, facilities and research capabilities focused on the development of materials, processes and designs. Research efforts will focus on a blend of near-term fixes and long-term efforts to reduce the carbon footprint required to package and deliver high-quality products to the consumer. “The Center for Sustainable Packaging will put students on the front line of applied research that enables manufacturers to provide consumers with innovative products while neutralizing society’s impact on the depletion of vital resources,” says RIT President Bill Destler. “Through collaborative partnerships and industry networks, the center will accelerate the development of realistic solutions in sustainable packaging,” he concludes.

This is not the first time the three organizations have collaborated, as both APC and the Foundation have sponsored student product-design competitions. In 2007, APC donated $1 million to establish the American Packaging Corp. Center for Packaging Innovation in RIT’s College of Applied Science and Technology. Work in this facility centers on material-science issues within packaging. The company has given an additional $1.2 million to continue support of the existing Center and help create the Center for Sustainable Packaging. The two Centers will collaborate on joint development initiatives.

“The various components of the food-packaging supply chain are siloed,” explains, Peter Schottland, president and chief executive officer of APC. “Each works to maximize its own results, without a common goal of sustainability. In order to make the most progress on sustainable packaging, the best ideas across the industry are necessary. In an environment where the industry is aligned, experiments can happen, economies of scale are overcome, knowledge is shared and results agreed upon,” he concludes.

“In combination with the Center for Packaging Innovation, this new program will make RIT and Rochester a destination for students, retailers and manufacturers with an interest in sustainable packaging,” concludes Danny Wegman, chairman of the board of The Wegman Family Charitable Foundation.

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Partnership sets stage for expanded use of PlantBottle packaging


A bio-glycol plant scheduled to be online by the end of 2014, will help The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, GA, expand use of its PlantBottle™ packaging to more markets worldwide. The facility, to be built in Araraquara, Sao Paulo, Brazil, by JBF Industries Ltd., Mumbai, India, will convert locally sourced sugarcane and sugarcane processing waste into one of the ingredients needed for production of plant-based polyethylene terephthalate (PET) for beverage containers.

Rated at 500,000 metric tons per year, the bio-glycol plant will move Coca-Cola closer to its 2020 target of using PlantBottle™ technology in all of its plastic bottles. Replacing non-renewable materials with plant-based means the facility will remove the equivalent of 690,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide or the equivalent of consuming more than 1.5 million barrels of oil each year.

Since introduction of PlantBottle packaging in 2009, Coca-Cola has broadened its use to a variety of products and more than 24 countries. The more than 10 billion PlantBottles sold to date have eliminated the equivalent of almost 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions – the equivalent of 200,000 barrels of oil from Coca-Cola’s PET packaging.

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Newlight converts greenhouse gases to bioplastic

A gas-to-plastic production line at Newlight Technologies, Irvine, CA, pulls carbon and oxygen molecules out of greenhouse gases such as methane or carbon dioxide and converts those molecules into high-performance polyhydroxyalkanoate-based bioplastics. The resulting materials can replace petroleum-based resins commonly used in packaging including polypropylene and polyethylene.


“The addition of this new advanced-generation capacity is the result of a singular focus: to manufacture plastic resins from air and greenhouse gas that match or exceed oil-based resins on performance while significantly out-competing on price,” says Mark Herrema, chief executive officer of Newlight. “This line is an important milestone for Newlight, because it…provides a powerful stepping stone on our path to commodity-scale volume.”

The 100,000-pound-per-year plant relies on an array of patented and patent-pending technologies. Potential greenhouse gas sources include air, wastewater treatment systems, landfills and energy facilities. Applications include storage containers and packaging films.

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Eco-friendly labels add to package sustainability

Label companies increasingly address demand for sustainable packaging with labels made from renewable and/or biodegradable materials or recycled-content.
Lightning Labels, Denver, CO, for example, offers compostable, rock-derived Biostone material, corn-based EarthFirst polylactic acid film and 100% recycled content paper label materials. Full-color printing on digital presses supports quick turnaround as well as short runs.
Plan It Green Printing, Los Angeles, CA, supplies labels made from recycled paper or plants such as bamboo and bagasse (rather than trees), as well as compostable and dissolvable materials. For more information, visit www.lightninglabels.com and http://planitgreenprinting.com.

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Ingeo™ PLA remains stable in landfills

A study by Organic Waste Systems, Ghent, Belgium, indicates compostable packaging made of Ingeo™ polylactic acid (PLA) from NatureWorks, Minnetonka, MN, does not degrade or release any statistically significant quantity of methane if it ends up in a landfill.

Peer-reviewed article appearing in Polymer Degradation and Stability concludes that Ingeo™ biopolymer is essentially stable in landfill conditions. “We work with a cradle-to-cradle approach to zero waste,” reports Marc Verbruggen, president and chief executive officer of NatureWorks. He explains: Although compostable, “The reality today is that a percentage of Ingeo products end up in landfills. And now we can say with certainty that the environmental impact of that landfilling, in terms of greenhouse gas release, is not significant.” A series of tests to ASTM D5526 and D5511 standards, simulated a century in landfill conditions. Since conditions in landfills vary, two scenarios were tested by researchers Jeffery J. Kolstad, Erwin T.H. Vink and Bruno De Wilde and Lies Debeer of Organic Waste Systems, a waste management consultancy.

The first tests occurred at 21 Celsius (C), or 69.8 Fahrenheit (F), for 390 days at three moisture levels. Since the tests did not show any statistically significant generation of biogas, the team decided to carry out a series of more aggressive high solids anaerobic digestion tests.

These tests simulate landfills actively managed to act as bioreactors and were designed to create high solids anaerobic digestion under optimal and significantly accelerated conditions. Tests were performed at 35 C (95 F) for 170 days. Some biogas was released, but the amount was not statistically significant, according to the peer-reviewed research paper.

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rHDPE container contains ocean debris

Method, San Francisco, CA, develops a limited edition recycled high-density polyethylene (rHDPE) container for its two-in-one hand/dish soap. Eighteen months in development, the container combines ocean debris with conventional post-consumer-recycled HDPE.


“Our goal with ocean plastic packaging is to show that the most viable solution to our plastic pollution problem is using the plastic that’s already on the planet,” says Adam Lowry, co-founder and chief greenskeeper of Method. “Method’s ocean plastic bottle demonstrates in the extreme that recycling is possible.”

Envision Plastics, Reidsville, N.C., cleaned, blended and reprocessed several tons of ocean debris into the rHDPE. To establish an ongoing business model and supply chain for collecting and sorting plastic marine debris, Method plans to donate a portion of the product’s proceeds to Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and the Kokua Hawaii Foundation, the groups that hand-collected the debris from Hawaiian beaches for shipment to Envision Plastics.

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Coffee capsule recycling reaches goal ahead of schedule

A recycling program, established by Nestlé Nespresso SA, Lausanne, Switzerland, to collect and reprocess aluminum capsules used for beverages prepared in single-serving coffee brewers achieves its 75% goal one year early.

In 2009, as part of its Ecolaboration™ program, Nespresso committed to put collection systems in place to triple its used capsule recycling capacity to 75%. Bureau Veritas, Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, a global provider of compliance assessment and certification services, certified the company’s worldwide recycling capacity stands at 76.4% as of June 30, 2012.

“Nespresso started with a dedicated recycling system in its home market, Switzerland, back in 1991,” recalls Guillaume Le Cunff, director of International Marketing and Sustainability at Nestlé Nespresso. “Now 21 years later more than 20 countries have Nespresso recycling systems. We have invested heavily to make recycling as easy as possible for our consumers to return their capsules so that the aluminum can be reused,” he adds.

Key to reaching the company’s commitment has been the development of specific Nespresso recycling solutions where national packaging recycling schemes have not been available. Those tailor-made solutions include:

* Collection points at Nespresso points of sales and capsule delivery
* Collection points in municipal waste collection points
* Courier recovery of used capsules when new capsules are delivered

To date, Nespresso has installed about 20,000 dedicated capsule collection points in 19 markets. Additionally, Nespresso has been able to work with established national packaging schemes in Germany, Sweden and Finland.

Moreover, Nespresso has leveraged innovations in technology and developed partnerships to improve recycling of aluminum in general and its used capsules in particular. “In France, for example, working through Club des Emballages Légers en Acier et Aluminium (CELAA), we have invested in the use of eddy current technology to improve the efficiency of aluminum packaging recovery,” reports Le Cunff. For more information, visit www.nestle-nespresso.com/ecolaboration and www.nestle-nespresso.com/ecolaboration/sustainability/capsules.


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Labels don’t affect PET recycling

The Association of Post-Consumer Recyclers (APR), Washington, D.C., has bestowed its Partners for Change Award on Spear, Cincinnati, OH. The honor recognizes Spear’s work in developing and testing its clear and white pressure-sensitive label films to ensure the materials do not become a contaminant in the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) recycling stream.

Tests by Plastics Forming Enterprise, an independently certified lab in Amherst, NH, followed APR’s protocol and included commercially printed graphics as well as base materials. Results confirm containers blown from the recycled PET flake exhibit acceptable container haze and clarity levels. Recycling PET containers offers several benefits. Not only is there the positive impact of landfill diversion, but production of bottles from recycled resin instead of virgin results in an average energy savings of 70%.

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