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Warning letters were sent out by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to 15 marketers of "oxodegradable" plastic waste bags that their "oxodegradable, oxo biodegradable or biodegradable claims may be deceptive."

Clare Goldsberry

November 17, 2014

2 Min Read
FTC staff warns plastic waste bag marketers that their ‘oxodegradable’ claims may be deceptive

Oxodegradable plastic is made with an additive intended to cause it to degrade in the presence of oxygen, however, most waste bags are intended to be deposited in landfills, where not enough oxygen likely exists for the oxodegradable bags to completely degrade in the time consumers expect. "Contrary to the marketing, therefore, these bags may be no more biodegradable than ordinary plastic waste bags when used as intended," notes the FTC (www.ftc.gov).

"If marketers don't have reliable scientific evidence for their claims, they shouldn't make them," said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "Claims that products are environmentally friendly influence buyers, so it's important they be accurate."

The FTC advised the marketers that consumers understand the terms "oxodegradable or "oxo biodegradable" claims to mean the same thing as biodegradable. 

Commenting on the issuance of this warning letter from the FTC, Danny Clark, president of ENSO Plastics, clarified the definitions for PlasticsToday. "The difference between degradable and biodegradable may seem small but they are very significantly different," Clark said. "Degradable technologies break down as a result of chemical reactions with the environment, i.e. oxygen, resulting in smaller and smaller pieces of plastic. Biodegradable is the breakdown as a result of a biological process from microbes resulting in a conversion to gases and soil."

ENSO Plastics is an environmental plastic solutions company that provides a range of specialized technologies from compostability, landfill biodegradable, marine degradable and more, for commercial and consumer use. Examples include ENSO Renew, a renewable biopolymer used as a standalone polymer or as a polymer replacement for PE and PP. Renew is an ASTM D6400 certified resin is made from agriculture waste material, is edible, home and industrial compostable and marine degradable, and semi-water soluble. ENSO's "Restore" is an additive technology to enhance the biodegradability of traditional materials including PET, PE, PS, PVC, PP and more, making the materials biodegrade 90% faster than without the additive.

Clark said that as the industry matures and new products developed to accommodate biodegradability, compostability and others, it becomes even more important that manufacturers and marketers "keep their claims accurate to the technology." 

The marketers must respond to the warning letters and tell the FTC staff if they will remove their oxodegradable claims from their marketing or if they have competent and reliable scientific evidence proving that their bags will biodegrade as advertised.

About the Author(s)

Clare Goldsberry

Until she retired in September 2021, Clare Goldsberry reported on the plastics industry for more than 30 years. In addition to the 10,000+ articles she has written, by her own estimation, she is the author of several books, including The Business of Injection Molding: How to succeed as a custom molder and Purchasing Injection Molds: A buyers guide. Goldsberry is a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association. She reflected on her long career in "Time to Say Good-Bye."

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