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Politics Degradable and

Politics Degradable and biodegradable claims The FTC guides state that an “unqualified degradable claim for items entering the solid waste stream should be substantiated with competent and reliable scientific evidence that the entire item will fully decompose (break down and return to nature; i.e. decompose into elements found in nature) within one year after customary disposal”. It also emphasizes that unqualified degradable/biodegradable claims for items that are customarily disposed in landfills, incinerators, and recycling facilities are deceptive because these locations do not present conditions in which complete decomposition will occur within one year. The term fully decompose into elements found in nature equates to the complete abiotic and biotic breakdown of the plastic to CO 2 , water, and cell biomass. This is discussed in detail earlier in the section on ‘Science of biodegradability’. Degradable claims can be made if it is qualified clearly and prominently to the extent necessary to avoid deception about: • The product’s or package’s ability to degrade in the environment where it is customarily disposed and more importantly the rate and extent of degradation or biodegradation. In the case of biodegradability claims, one has to provide ‘reliable and competent evidence’ of the rate and extent of biodegradation in the target disposal environment – a graphical plot of percent biodegradability as measured by the evolved CO 2 (aerobic) or CO 2 +CH 4 (anaerobic) vs time in days. The FTC guides do not identify any specific testing protocol or specification and therefore reserve the right to evaluate the data which forms the basis of the claims. However, they clearly require that the evidence should be based on standards generally accepted in the relevant scientific fields. So ASTM, EN, ISO standards can be used to provide the evidence for validating the rate and extent of biodegradation in the selected disposal environment/s Compostable Claims FTC guides states that “A marketer claiming that an item is compostable should have competent and reliable scientific evidence that all the materials in the item will break down into, or otherwise become part of, usable compost (e.g., soilconditioning material, mulch) in a safe and timely manner (i.e., in approximately the same time as the materials with which it is composted) in an appropriate composting facility, or in a home compost pile or device”. Based on this guidance, a claim of compostability in commercial and municipal composting can be made if the product satisfies the requirements of Specification Standards ASTM D6400, or EN 13432, or ISO 14855 as determined by an approved, independent third-party laboratory – satisfies the FTC requirements of competent and reliable scientific evidence based on standards generally accepted in the scientific field. However, the FTC green guide requires an additional statement that states “Appropriate facilities may not exist in your area” or words to that effect to avoid deception as the local area may not have commercial or municipal composting operations. It may also be useful to provide information on how to find a composter in the area. In the USA, an independent, qualified third party, NSF International, certifies products as compostable in commercial and municipal facilities based on ASTM standard D6400 – as discussed earlier this is in compliance with the FTC green guides - independent certifier using voluntary consensus standards from ASTM. However, third-party certification does not eliminate a marketer’s obligation to ensure that it has substantiation for all claims reasonably communicated by the certification. There is a provision in the FTC green guides to make unqualified general compostability claim if the product can be converted safely to usable compost in a timely manner in a home compost pile or device. However, there are no standards or guidance on what constitutes a home compost pile – it could be a rotting pile in the garden, or a poorly managed home compost pile that turns anaerobic. So it is unclear as to how one can provide substantiation for compostability claim in a home compost pile or device. Renewable Materials, biobased materials, biobased content FTC guidance is that unqualified renewable materials claims are deceptive because consumers are likely to interpret the claim to mean recycled content, recyclable, and biodegradable. It is possible to make qualified renewable materials claims like “the package is made from 100% plant based renewable materials in which the rate and time scales of use is in balance with the rate and time scales of growth. The FTC did not issue any guidance on biobased claims and deferred to the USDA to ensure accurate communication of information to consumers on products USDA certifies as ‘biobased’ ASTM D6866 forms the basis for measuring and reporting biobased content. References 1. Federal Register / Vol. 77, No. 197 / 2012 / Rules and Regulations; FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION 16 CFR Part 260 Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims 2. 3. 4. Ramani Narayan, Carbon footprint of bioplastics using biocarbon content analysis and life cycle assessment, MRS (Materials Research Society) Bulletin, Vol 36 Issue 09, pg. 716 – 721, 2011 5. bioplastics MAGAZINE (01/09) vol 4; 6. bioplastics MAGAZINE (01/10), vol 5 40 bioplastics MAGAZINE [06/12] Vol. 7

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