Wednesday, October 21, 2015

FTC limits use of product term 'biodegradable'

Photo Credit: biodegradable label via Shutterstock
Manufacturers can no longer use the term “biodegradable” on any product unless that product is shown to completely break down into elements in nature within five years after customary disposal, according to a Federal Trade Commission decision released yesterday.
Environmental Leader reports: 
The FTC’s decision reverses its administrative law judge and sets new national environmental policy. It follows the FTC’s recent crackdown on companies’ claims that their products are biodegradable.
In the FTC administrative law judge’s January decision, Judge D. Michael Chappell ruled that ECM Biofilms, maker of an additive that accelerates the biodegradation of conventional plastics, had proven the effectiveness of its product based on generally accepted, competent and reliable scientific evidence, including more than 20 gas evolution tests that prove intrinsic biodegradability.
The FTC on Oct. 19 rejected the ALJ’s decision without a scientific explanation and without identifying any other form of testing generally accepted in the scientific community that could suport a biodegradable claim, according to ECM Biofilms’ attorney.
“This is an egregious instance of abuse of agency discretion,” said Jonathan Emord of Emord & Associates, the firm representing ECM Biofilms. “The ALJ correctly ruled on the record evidence that the ECM product renders plastic intrinsically biodegradable and accelerates plastic biodegradation — in other words that it works. By forbidding ECM from claiming that its product makes plastics biodegradable despite overwhelming evidence that it does, and by erecting an arbitrary and unscientific five-year cut off for use of the term ‘biodegradable,’ the FTC has imposed a constitutionally forbidden prior restraint on truthful speech.”
ECM will appeal the FTC’s decision, Emord said.

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