JANUARY 2012

California Attorney General challenges manufacturers use of ‘biodegradable’ claim

California attorney General Kamala Harris filed suit against two bottled water makers and their bottle supplier for falsely claiming that the bottles biodegrade.

The suit alleges that the claims are false and their use violates California law. The suit calls for the bottles, tens of thousands of which are sold at retailers throughout California, to be pulled from shelves.

“The manufacturers of these bottles are taking advantage of Californians’ concern for their environment,” said Attorney General Harris. “Consumers are led to believe they are being environmentally friendly by choosing these bottles. In fact, they could be further damaging our natural resources.”

“Consumers are being misled by companies who use environmentally friendly ploys to sell their products, when in reality there is no benefit,” said Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), author of the 2008 legislation that prohibited marketers from misusing claims such as ‘biodegradable’ on their bottles. “I am pleased that the Attorney General has been able to use our law to crack down on out of state bottle manufacturers who are blatantly ignoring the law and marketing environmentally bad products to California companies.”

The lawsuit, filed in Orange County Superior Court, names bottled water producers Aquamantra, Balance Water and bottle-maker ENSO Plastics.

“These falsely labeled bottles pose several serious problems,” said Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste.

The most serious and costly problem is the threat of contamination these chemical additives pose to California’s 100 million dollar plastic recycling industry.

The so-called ‘bio-bottles’ used are mostly made from PET plastic (#1), and look identical to every other water or soft drink bottle. Today, Californians are returning more than 75 percent of PET bottles for recycling. Increasingly these bottles are being washed and ‘flaked’ here in California where the finished product can be re-used to manufacture a myriad of products and packaging.

Just a small amount of these chemically altered bottles can contaminate thousands of pounds of otherwise valuable feedstock.

“The chemical contamination from these bottles is catastrophic for our business,” said Ed Byrne, CEO of Peninsula Packaging. “When we remold products, the different types of plastics melt at widely varying temperatures. It is extremely dangerous to our technicians to deal with these problems. Moreover, consumers reject products packaged in contaminated containers, simply because of the disgusting appearance.”