The Devil is in the Fine Print – Part 1

How often have you heard the phrase-“The devil is in the details” ? However, when you are looking at the claims manufacturers that claim to that their products will “biodegrade in landfills,”  the devil really is in the fine print.

This is never truer than the recent analyst’s report on Perf-Go Green Holdings, Inc. (PGOG:OB), as well as the company’s own SEC filing documents.

Perf-Go Green Holdings, Inc. markets trash bags that contain “oxo-biodegradable” additives supplied by EPI, in Canada.  These additives allegedly transform regular polyethylene film into biodegradable trash bags, according to the company literature.  Yet no scientific evidence has ever been provided by the companies to show that their bags will fully biodegrade under the conditions found in landfills. Continue reading

FTC to Host Green Marketing Claims Webinar on February 19

The US federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are co-sponsoring a webinar on green marketing claims this coming Thursday, February 19th. From our perspective, this is a great resource and should be excellent listening.

The conference prospectus claims that the webinar will clarify and define widely misused green marketing terms like “environmentally safe,” “recyclable,” “degradable” or “ozone friendly”.   We think this webinar should be especially useful to responsible consumer products companies as it is conducted by the very federal agencies that will likely set regulations and policies in 2009 and beyond.

The speakers for the webinar are:

Laura DeMartino, Assistant Director in the Enforcement Division of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. Ms. DeMartino oversees enforcement of consumer protection orders as well as numerous FTC rules and guides.  In particular, she supervises the ongoing review of the FTC’s Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims, more commonly known as the “Green Guides.”  She will give the background and sources for informed environmental decisions on green marketing claims – and where to report false claims.

Sara Hartwell
, Environmental Specialist, USEPA Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery. Ms. Hartwell is leading EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery’s program to increase the recycling rate of packaging.  Ms. Hartwell’s professional background includes R&D with a flexible packaging converter, as well as hazardous waste methods development.  Ms. Hartwell will talk about the definitions and terms used for green marketing claims. She will also share information on some of the projects she is working on with commercial partners.

To register, follow this link (GoToWebinar).  You will need to be able to view presentations via your computer and listen to the audio portion by telephone or through your PC speakers. Registered participants will be able to connect to the web link provided in the reminder e-mail that will be sent out 2 days in advance of the call date.

Composting: The 24 Percent Solution

Leaves in Andrew Skwor's compost heap north of Baraboo were hot to the touch Friday afternoon. They once sat in the yards of Village of West Baraboo residents and will soon break down into an environmentally friendly material that his brother can use for his landscaping business.

If you’re looking for a positive story about community composting, check out Baraboo, Wisconsin.

Tim Damos, from the Sauk County News Republic recently published an interesting profile of local composter Andrew Skwor. Skwor runs a large-scale mixed organics composting facility in Baraboo.

For about ten years, Skwor has experimented with composting, a method for breaking down organics into a nutrient rich material that helps plants flourish.

As an engineering student at UW-Platteville, Skwor studied the viability of turning wastewater sludge into a form of compost. Since then, he’s worked with scientists at Cornell University to develop software that helps compost producers find the right blend of materials for the product they need

The article does an excellent job of pointing out how food scraps and yard trimmings make up 24 percent of the waste that municipalities handle, and how a local composting operation that handles source separated organics (including yard trimmings, food scraps and wet, non-recyclable papers, can recycle these source-separated organics into an organic potting soil which can be sold for $15 per cubic yard.

“Oxo” Bag Advertising Claims Trashed by Better Business Bureau

The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (NAD) recently recommended that GP Plastics Corp., the maker of PolyGreen® plastic bags for the newspaper industry, modify or discontinue certain advertising claims for its PolyGreen plastic bags.

You will recall an earlier post on greenwashingspy.com that questioned similar claims made by The New York Times in its announcement to use degradable’ bags for home delivery of newspapers.

Some of GP Plastic’s marketing claims that the NAD found unsupported included:

• PolyGreen plastic bags are “100% oxo-biodegradable”

• PolyGreen plastic bags are “disposable through ordinary channels” and go “from front lawn, to waste bins to the landfill”
• “You won’t notice any difference but the environment will.”
• “The greatest thing to ever hit the earth.”
• “Eco-Friendly Plastic Newspaper Bags”
• PolyGreen plastic bags are “environmentally friendly.”
• “Our bags are completely recyclable”
• “The result is obvious – bag it with PolyGreen and increase your margins while saving the planet.”

Ah, yes, nothing quite says you’re a ‘green company’ than the duality of enhancing customer margins while saving the planet!

There are some good takeaways here:

For marketers, simply put, making frivolous or empty ‘green’ claims is a losing game.  The NAD has reaffirmed the directions set out by the by the Federal Trade Commission’s Environmental Marketing Guides.

Next, consumers are becoming more sophisticated (and skeptical) of green claims. Genuine attempts to offer truly “green” products attract the attention of sophisticated consumers and harness powerful market forces which can be a catalyst for true environmental progress.  Frivolous claims only attract powerful legal and political forces looking to make an example of a marketing wizard.

Also, this decision really challenges the notion of product ingredients or additives that confer magical “green” properties on products.

To make ‘biodegradable’ a real solution, manufacturers need to first develop products and packages that completely biodegrade, in a timely fashion, under the appropriate conditions. They also need to educate consumers and municipal officials about the merits of composting as a waste-diversion tactic. And finally, marketers, consumers and their legislators need to support sustainable, community-based composting programs.

PS: GP stated that they would appeal the NAD’s findings. Stay tuned.

Think COOL2012 (Let’s Stop Filling Landfills with Recyclable Organics)

In a recent post on sustainablog.org, Robin Shreeves commented on her town’s municipal composting program.

This past spring, my family and I were able to get all the compost we needed for our vegetable garden from a local community’s compost pile at their department of public works. The compost was created from all of the leaves and yard clippings that had been collected curbside. Many communities collect leaves, clippings and other outside organic matter to turn into compost, but some communities are taking it a step further.

Food that is mixed in with regular trash is estimated to make up about 40% of the trash in landfills. It also is the biggest offender in creating landfill methane which is a powerful greenhouse gas – 72 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Reducing landfill methane is just one of the benefits of keeping this type of waste out of landfills.

Curbside composting’s many benefits include:

  • saving money by reducing trash to landfill service and thereby lowering garbage bills;
  • conserving valuable organic resources by returning organic matter and nutrients to the soil;
  • reducing climate warming gases from landfills and reducing the risk of potential groundwater pollution
  • extending the life of our landfill by saving space

We think these are excellent and astute observations, especially since it demonstrates the fundamental need for keeping organic materials OUT of landfills!

When advocating “green” in your local town, think about the 40% of recyclable (compostable) trash. Not only can you help prevent global warming (by reducing the potential of methane production in landfills), but you can help your town reduce solid waste disposal fees by diverting a significant percentage of the total waste stream from the landfill. For more information about the benefits of diverting compostable materials from landfills, visit COOL2012 website.

To paraphrase Margaret Mead once remarked, a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change a short-sighted municipal solid waste plan!