Are your products biodegradable? You better watch out in California.

 Are your products biodegradable? You better watch out in California.

California’s law SB 567 prohibits any plastic product sold within the state to be labeled as “biodegradable,” “degradable,” or “decomposable,” or any form of those terms. Moreover, a label cannot “in any way imply that the plastic product will break down, fragment, biodegrade or decompose in a landfill or other environment”. California legislature has declared the use of the terms “degradable,” “biodegradable,” “decomposable,” or other like terms on plastic products are inherently misleading to consumers.”

 

Civil penalties for violations are assessed on a per product basis and can easily amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the volume of the orders. One major retailer paid just under $1 million to settle a consumer protection action lawsuit over mislabeling products in this manner

 

Many companies use terms like “biodegradable” or “compostable” in a very misleading manner to the point that consumers often mistakenly believe that these products are somehow good for the environment. Biodegradation  and composting are in fact specialized processes and consumers should be aware of the required conditions and consequences when considering these functions.

 

So what makes a product “biodegradable”? Any material that comes from nature will be able to return to nature provided that it hasn’t been changed too much by man-made processing.  Any plant-based, animal-based or natural mineral-based product has the capability to biodegrade, but they will biodegrade at different rates depending on the original material and how much it has been processed. Products made from man-made compounds formulated in a laboratory are in combinations that do not exist in nature and therefore microorganisms are not able to break them down.