California Versus Plastic Container Labels

What could get California’s Attorney General Kamala D. Harris so riled up? Falsifying claims about biodegradability, that’s what. It seems a few plastic bottle manufactures are misleading consumers by deliberately labeling bottles as biodegradable – which violates state law.  

The Attorney General filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court on Oct. 26 against ENSO Plastics LLC of Mesa, Ariz., and two companies that sell water in ENSO bottles, Balance Water based in West Orange, N.J. and AquaMantra based in Dana Point, Calif. The three companies are cited for falsely marking plastic bottles as “100 percent biodegradable and recyclable” when they are not.

Within Harris’ suit, she states:

 “The People bring this action against companies that are falsely or deceptively labeling and/or marketing plastic beverage containers as ‘biodegradable’ and ‘recyclable,’ in violation of California law. The advertising and marketing practices of these companies are misleading to California consumers and businesses, and potentially harmful to the environment.”

Harris is taking this violation seriously as does the entire newly “green” state. In 2008, the state Legislature implemented the environmental law, banning the use of marketing words “biodegradable,” “degradable” or “compostable” on any plastic food or beverage container labels. The state insists that it is illegal to label products as such since the amount of time it takes for plastic materials to break down would equal thousands of years. However, Balance Water and AquaMantra stand by the biodegradable bottles, but did say they would remove the labeling to comply with California law in news reports.

This case is the first in an effort to crack down on green marketing by the state.

Enforcing this policy falls in line with Gov. Jerry Brown’s recently signed Senate Bill 567 that expands the environmental marketing law to include all plastic products by 2013.

In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission has the last say in biodegradable standards. But, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “biodegradable plastic technologies have emerged to replace fossil fuel-based plastics with plant-based plastics.” These are the only two types of plastics on the market. The plant-based plastic made from corn, known as poly lactic acid (PLA) tops the list as the best green choice. PLA decomposes in an estimated 60 to 90 days in water and carbon dioxide, according to However, mixed with other chemicals that time is delayed.

ENSO company president, Danny Clark, hasn’t yet responded to the lawsuit, but defends the company’s biodegradable technology that includes a microbial additive that will aid biodegradability in less than five years in a typical compost environment.

“We stand behind our technology and the claims that our company makes in stating that standard plastics enhanced with our biodegradable additive are fully recyclable and if placed in an environment with microbes, will naturally biodegrade,” Clark said in a statement. “We in no way claim that our technology is the silver bulled to solving the massive plastic pollution issue our world faces. It is however a huge step in the right direction.”

View the complete case file here.


Posted by Christina Miralla on Nov 02, 2011

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