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The greenwashing needs to stop!

To meet consumer demand for plastic alternatives companies are turning to an increasing array of packaging options and products that claim to be better for the environment. But are they?

Some companies are using words like ‘industrially compostable’, ‘home compostable’, ‘biodegradable’ and ‘degradable’ interchangeably and making claims about their products that they can’t back up running the risk of falling foul of the Fair Trading Act.

To address this issue, WasteMINZ has collaborated with Plastics NZ to produce the Best Practice Guidelines for the Advertising of Compostable Products and Packaging.

Chris Purchas Chair of WasteMINZ Organic Materials Sector Group says “In May, WasteMINZ produced consumer guidelines to help the public know what to look for when purchasing compostable products and packaging. These latest guidelines are aimed at manufacturers and retailers to help them make the most appropriate claim for their product so they can avoid being accused of greenwashing”.

“Having a benchmark of best practice which helps the whole industry be more transparent is really important. We are also hopeful that the clarity provided by these guidelines helps reduce both consumer and industry confusion around compostables” says Madelynn Gyde of Innocent Packaging

The guidelines recommend that when advertising compostable products and packaging, companies:

• Stick to the facts and avoid making vague subjective claims such as “Earth Safe” “Environmentally friendly” and “Green”

• Avoid using images of animals that are associated with a healthy environment as this implies that the product or packaging would not negatively impact on these animals

• Avoid the words biodegradable and degradable as these are difficult to substantiate

• Indicate the international composting standard their product/packaging has been certified to and if it is home or industrially compostable

• Include end of life disposal options for the New Zealand context and link to the list of Industrial Composters in NZ who currently accept compostable packaging or include information about their own collection service

“It is essential that a finished product or packaging has been certified compostable to advertise it as such. If a product or packaging is made up multiple individually certified compostable films but the finished product has not been tested then it is a breach of the Fair Trading Act to advertise it as compostable. This is because the compostability of a product depends on the thickness and shape, not just the material it is made up of” says Chris Purchas.

Manufacturers and retailers of compostable products and packaging were invited to a preview of the guidelines last month.

The guidelines can be viewed here

WasteMINZ is the membership body for New Zealand’s composting industry and has members which run composting facilities and who also sell compostable packaging.

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