All posts by dbrooks

Biodegradable Products Are Not Major Contributors to Landfill Methane Emissions

Responding to a recent article in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, Steven A. Mojo, Executive Director of the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), issued the following statement:

Biodegradable products are not major contributors to methane emissions from landfills, as claimed in the Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T) article.

A North Carolina State University study, published online in the May 27 issue of Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T), leaves the impression that “biobased biodegradable products” potentially generate large amounts of methane when they are landfilled. The Biodegradable Products Institute believes that the headlines and conclusions of this work are inappropriate.

There are two fallacies in the article’s arguments.

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Court Declares ‘Goody’ Bag Marketing Claims Were Misleading

Yesterday, the Federal Court of Australia ruled plastic bag company NuPak Australia has engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct related to environmental marketing claims for Goody-brand “degradable” bags.

The court heard the company had claimed its bags were biodegradable and compostable when this was not the case. The court was told its bags also contained a heavy metal in amounts that exceeded the maximum concentration under Australian standards.

NuPak has been ordered to publish corrective notices on its website, send a letter to each customer and contribute $10,000 towards the costs of the ACCC over the proceedings.

Following legal action by the Australia Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Nupak Australia is Pty Ltd (‘Nupak’) has consented
to a declaration being made by the Federal Court of Australia that it contravened sections 52 and 53 of the Trade Practices Act 1974 (the TPA)
by making false representations and engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct.

As part of the court action, Nupak has consented to a Court declaration that ‘Goody’ brand plastic bags supplied by Nupak did not biodegrade or disintegrate and contained a toxic or hazardous substance, and therefore were not complaint with the Australian Standard.

Nupak has given an undertaking to the Court to refrain from representing that ‘Goody’ brand plastics bags are biodegradable, compostable or
comply with the Australia Standard unless first receiving independent scientific testing that supports the claim.

Nupak has consented to orders that it publish corrective notices in The Advertiser (a daily newspaper from Adelaide, Australia) and also to an order to implement a Trade Practices Compliance and Education Training Program regarding its responsibilities and obligations under Australian law.

Nupak has paid a contribution towards the ACCC’s costs of instituting the proceedings.

In a written statement, the Biodegradable Products Institute commented:  

“We are  glad to see that manufacturer’s unsupported claims are recognized as misleading. We hope to see more of this in the future, in response to the growing number of these claims around the globe.


Oxo-Degradable Bags Criticized in UK Gov’t Study

So-called ‘oxo-degradable’ plastic bags used by major UK supermarkets do not break down as quickly as believed and may not be as environmentally-friendly as they sound, according  a recently published report by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

The 104-page study into ”oxo-degradable” plastics, often labelled as degradable or biodegradable, found there was uncertainty about their impact on the natural environment.

Among the key findings:

(The) incorporation of additives into petroleum-based plastics that cause those plastics to undergo accelerated degradation does not improve their environmental impact and potentially gives rise to certain negative effects.


Oxo-degradable plastics are not compostable, according to established international standards EN13432 and ASTM D6400. Oxo-degradable plastics should not be included in waste going for composting, because the plastic fragments remaining after the composting process might adversely affect the quality and saleability of the compost.

and finally:

It is thought that labelling the oxo-degradable plastics as biodegradable can lead to confusion on the part of consumers, who may assume that ‘biodegradable plastics‘ are compostable. This may lead to contamination of the composting waste-stream with oxo-degradable plastics.

In the wake of the study funded by DEFRA, ministers called on the industry not to claim the plastics were better for the environment than more conventional ones.

Click on the link to read the entire DEFRA press release or download the entire DEFRA report.

Goody Bags Under Scrutiny

So-called “biodegradable” plastic shopping bags in Australian supermarkets have failed to decompose as advertised based independent tests, raising serious questions over their green marketing claims.

About 60 million of the plastic bags, bearing the brand name Goody (produced by packaging company NuPak), have been distributed through shopping centers such as IGA, plus cafes and other stores.  But according to a story originally published by the Sydney Morning Herald, tests done in October 2009 by Belgian company Organic Waste Systems.  {Editor’s note:  2/1/2009 – the link to the Sydney Morning Herald story has been ‘deactivated’.  However, you click on the link to read the full text of “Black Mark for Green Bags” by Flint Duxfield.}

OWS testing reveals that Goody bags were ''completely intact'' after 12 weeks, by which time they were supposed to be turning into safe organic compost. By contrast, certified compostable bags largely disintegrated within two weeks. Click on photo to enlarge.

Click on the link to download a PDF of the biodegradable test results.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has been sent information questioning the green marketing claims.  In the article, it would not confirm or deny if an investigation was under way.

Jon Dee, founder of the Australian environment group Do Something!, said that the findings of the test were extremely concerning.  “I am calling for the ACCC to begin an investigation into Goody bags based on these tests. If they find it doesn’t biodegrade according to the national standards then it should clearly be removed from the market,” Mr Dee said.

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Experts Warn: “Beware the Great ‘Greenwashing’ Con”

Eco-conscious customers who flock to one Washington store say they have chosen the environmentally friendly living shop because they know they are in little danger of being “greenwashed,” according to a newswire story from Agence France-Presse (AFP).

“I can give you a ton of words that mean absolutely, positively nothing,” said Daniel Velez, owner of Greater Goods, where the shelves are stocked only after careful, painstaking research. “The word natural. The word earth-friendly. It means nothing since it’s not legally defined. Biodegradable, except in California, doesn’t actually carry any weight of law.”

The article identifies the lack of legal requirements companies must follow when marketing products as “green” or “sustainable.”

“Today it suffices to just slap some green paint on a product to call it green,” Bernard Caron, director of marketing for the Belgian company Ecover, told AFP. Ecover, a long-time international leader in ecologically safe cleaning products, has rejected the European Commission‘s “Ecolabel” since Ecover believes the voluntary environmental certification standards are not sufficiently stringent.

“Many American consumers, even in the face of economic uncertainty, express a willingness to pay more for environmentally friendly products,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of Yale Project on Climate Change.

The best thing consumers can do is read the fine print, and try to decipher the specifics behind a product’s “green” label.

Read more about it at “Beware the great ‘greenwashing’ con, experts warn (AFP)