When you see the recycling label on packaging, you assume that it’s recyclable. You place it in your recyclable trash container and hope that your plastic bottle finds a new life as another product. You’ve been led to believe by the manufacturers of plastic and retailers that your plastic is being recycled. However, the reality is that only 8% of plastic is actually recycled. The rules regarding the labeling of recyclable materials are complicated, and not everything is recycled as it should be.
If a company labeled its product as recyclable when it was not, in fact, recyclable, then it could be liable for deceptive trade practices. Under Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Green Guides, a product or package should not be labeled as recyclable unless it can be collected, separated, or otherwise recovered from the waste stream through an established recycling program for reuse or use in manufacturing or assembling another item. Marketers can make unqualified recyclable claims if 60% or more of consumers can recycle the product. If less than 60% can recycle an item, then the marketer must qualify the claim. However, FTC rules can be complicated and difficult to follow. For example, marketers are allowed to qualify their packaging as containing “some recyclable material” but are not required to identify which parts are recyclable. The Federal Trade Commission needs to write clear regulations and impose strict penalties on companies who falsely label their packaging as recyclable.
There is currently a class-action lawsuit pending against coffee pod manufacturer Keurig. The company indicated that its plastic coffee pods were recyclable when, in fact, the pods were too small to be processed in most recycling facilities. A lawsuit was initially filed by a California woman who claimed that she was deceived by Keurig into purchasing their product because she believed it was recyclable. Keurig tried to argue that the woman was not harmed by their deceptive labeling, but a court found that, because the woman purchased the product based on the belief that it was recyclable, she was harmed. Keurig claimed that the class action lawsuit should be dismissed because it qualifies its labeling by telling consumers that they should “check locally” to see if their product is recyclable in their area. The judge dismissed this defense because the Keurig pods were not recyclable anywhere.
In light of this controversy, other coffee pod companies such as Nespresso have been working toward making their products truly recyclable. Even Keurig has made a promise to work on the recyclability of their product. The recyclability of coffee pods, in particular, has been a subject of concern, and companies need to work toward the sustainability of their products.
The important thing is that manufacturers and marketers should be held accountable when they deceive the public about the recyclability of their products. Consumers rely on recyclability labeling when making purchasing decisions and make efforts to properly recycle. Consumers should be able to make informed choices about the products they purchase.
Contact an Experienced Attorney
If you have concerns over the recyclability of the products you use, you should consult with an experienced attorney. Gregg Goldfarb has been helping the injured for over 20 years. Contact us online or call us at 305-374-7000 to schedule a free consultation.