“Biodegradable”, “degradable” and “compostable” are terms used when describing organic materials breaking down in a specific environment. All terms are often used when defining environmentally friendly products. However, the terms “biodegradable” and “degradable” are very often misused in marketing and advertising of products and materials that are not actually environmentally friendly. This is why many states have passed laws and regulations against the use of those specific terms as well as the reasoning behind the creation of the Green Guides by the FTC. Over the years, BioBag® Americas has adopted these rules and adapted our marketing to meet these regulations. This is why we only use the term “compostable” when describing, marketing, and labeling our products. All of BioBag’s products are third-party certified compostable. Rest assured that BioBag continually follows the legislative happenings throughout the country and evolves our products and packaging to meet all the standards. BioBag products adhere to all the following regulations.
Federal Trade Commission: Green Guides
The Green Guides were first introduced in 1992 and have been modified a couple of times since, with the latest revision being released October 2012. The revision included “new-age topics” of environmental certifications and seals, carbon offsets, and renewable energy and materials claims.
Green product resellers and manufacturers, as well as all consumers, should familiarize themselves with these guidelines. A great summary video by the FTC that walks you through the revisions and additions can be seen below.
To review a summary of the Green Guides, please visit their site.
Over the years, BioBag has worked with the FTC various times to ensure that all our packaging claims abide by these guidelines. Be confident that BioBag always operates with full truthfulness and clarity when making any environmental claims. Below is the excerpt from the FTC Green Guides regarding compostability claims.
• Marketers who claim a product is compostable need competent and reliable scientific evidence that all materials in the product or package will break down into — or become part of — usable compost safely and in about the same time as the materials with which it is composted.
• Marketers should qualify compostable claims if the product can’t be composted at home safely or in a timely way. Marketers also should qualify a claim that a product can be composted in a municipal or institutional facility if the facilities aren’t available to a substantial majority of consumers.
This is the reason you will see the specific disclaimers on our packaging that include:
“Appropriate composting facilities may not exist in your area. Please visit www.findacomposter.com to see if facilities are available in your community.” And “All BioBag products may not be suitable for home composting depending on your composting method.”
If you have any questions about BioBag products and our environmental claims, feel free to contact us at any time. firstname.lastname@example.org or 727-789-1646
A full text of the Federal Trade Commission’s GUIDES FOR THE USE OF ENVIRONMENTAL MARKETING CLAIMS can be found here.
City & State Regulations
A list of state & city organics bans (as of June 2021) can be found here.
California Law: California Restricts Environmental Marketing Claims on Plastic Bags
If your company is conducting business in California, the California Law (SB 1972) should be of great interest. Even if your company does not do business in the state, the law may reinforce the trend nationally for greater clarification for the average consumer regarding biodegradable and compostable product claims.
SEC. 4. Section 42357 of the Public Resources Code is amended to read: 42357. (a) (1) A person shall not sell a plastic bag in this state that is labeled with the term “compostable” or “marine degradable,” unless, at the time of sale, the plastic bag meets the applicable ASTM standard specification( ASTM D 6400-04), as specified in paragraph (1) of subdivision (b) of Section 42356. (2) Compliance with only a section or a portion of a section of an applicable ASTM standard specification does not constitute compliance with paragraph (1). (b) Except as provided in subdivision (a), a person shall not sell a plastic bag in this state that is labeled with the term “biodegradable,” “degradable,” or “decomposable,” or any form of those terms, or in any way imply that the bag will break down, fragment, biodegrade, or decompose in a landfill or other environment.
SECTION 1. Section 42358 is added to the Public Resources Code, to read: 42358. (a) A city, a county, or the state may impose civil liability in the amount of five hundred dollars ($500) for the first violation of this chapter, one thousand dollars ($1,000) for the second violation, and two thousand dollars ($2,000) for the third and any subsequent violation.
More info on California Law (SB 1972).
California Law: Plastic Products
A manufacturer of a compostable plastic bag meeting an ASTM standard specification specified in paragraph (1) of subdivision (b) of Section 42356 or Section 42356.1 shall ensure that the compostable plastic bag is readily and easily identifiable from other plastic bags in a manner that is consistent with the Federal Trade Commission Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims Part 260 (commencing with Section 260.1) of Subchapter B of Chapter I of Title 16 of the Code of Federal Regulations). Read more here.
Mandatory Commercial Organics Recycling Law:
- In October 2014, Governor Brown signed AB 1826 Chesbro (Chapter 727, Statutes of 2014), requiring businesses to recycle their organic waste
- Businesses that generate 4 cubic yards of organic waste per week shall arrange for organic waste recycling services
For more information, please visit https://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/recycle/commercial/organics/
Mandatory Organics Recycling Law for Residents and Businesses:
Starting January 1, 2022, SB 1383 took effect in California. SB 1383 requires all residents and businesses in the state of California to recycle their organic waste, including food waste, as part of a statewide effort to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants. The following video provides more information about the law and what it means for California residents:
SB 1383 can be read in its entirety here.
Pre-checkout and Carryout Bags Law:
SB 1046 prohibits a store from providing a pre-checkout bag to a customer if the bag is not either a compostable bag or a recycled paper bag. A pre-checkout bag means a bag provided to a customer before the customer reaches the point of sale. This is in addition to the existing law that prohibits a store from providing a single-use carryout bag to a customer at the point of sale, except for a compostable bag under specified conditions. SB 1046 will take effect on January 1, 2023.
SB 1046 can be read in its entirety here.
San Francisco Checkout Bag Ordinance
The City and County of San Francisco amended Chapter 17 of the Environment Code, extending the plastic checkout bag ban to include all retail stores on 10/1/2012 and all food establishments starting on 10/1/2013. The Checkout Bag Ordinance also requires a charge on allowed checkout bags (compostable bags, recycled paper bags, or reusable bags). To learn more about the ordinance and acceptable products such as BioBag, visit San Francisco Department of the Environment.
City of Seattle Bag Requirements Law
- May not provide customers with single-use plastic or compostable carryout (shopping) bags, or bags labeled “biodegradable,” “degradable,” “decomposable,” or similar.
- May not provide customers with plastic bags (such as produce bags) that are tinted green or brown. Stores can provide approved compostable bags, and they must be colored green or brown.
Read more here.
Maryland Law – Environment – Compostable, Degradable, and Biodegradable Plastic Products – Labeling
- Prohibiting a person from selling a specified plastic product that is labeled as biodegradable, degradable, or decomposable
- Prohibiting a person from selling a specified plastic product labeled as compostable or home compostable unless the plastic product meets specified standards
Read more here.
Massachusetts: Commercial Organics Waste Ban
Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection established a commercial organics waste ban, which went into effect on October 1, 2014. Under this ban, businesses or institutions that generate one ton or more of food material per week for disposal must divert that material from disposal to other uses. More information can be found here.
For more information on Waste Ban Regulations & Policies, visit https://www.mass.gov/guides/massdep-waste-disposal-bans.
Minneapolis, Minnesota Yard Waste Prohibition
With the start of the 2012 Yard Waste season, Minneapolis Solid Waste and Recycling banned the collection of plastic yard waste bags as required by Minnesota Statute 115A.931(c). In accordance with state law and City policy, residents who bag their yard waste must put the yard waste out for pickup in compostable plastic bags, Kraft paper bags (no conventional plastic bags), or reusable containers that are approximately 33 gallons in size, no less than 26 inches in height, and have sturdy handles. See the Minnesota Solid Waste & Recycling site for more information.
Minnesota: Standards for Labeling Plastic Bags
Much like the California law, Minnesota implemented regulations regarding biodegradable and compostable labeling on products in January 2010. As required by Minnesota Statute 325E.046, a plastic bag labeled “biodegradable,” “degradable,” or any form of those terms may not be offered for sale by a manufacturer, distributor, or wholesaler in the State of Minnesota. Additionally, a plastic bag labeled “compostable” may not be offered for sale unless the bag meets the ASTM Standard Specification for Compostable Plastics (D6400) and is labeled as such on each bag. See the State of Minnesota Revisor of Statutes site for more information.
Texas: Houston Biodegradable Bag Ordinance
The City Council on September 2, 2009, approved an ordinance amending Chapter 39, Article IV, of the Houston Code of Ordinances, Collection Services. This change requires residents to use “compostable bags” for City collection of green organic material. Residents are reminded that the organic material must be in compostable bags bearing the City of Houston logo. See the City of Houston site for more information and where to purchase Houston approved BioBags.
Washington: Product Degradability – Labeling
Per House Bill 1569, environmental marketing claims for plastic products, whether implicit or implied, should adhere to uniform and recognized standards for “compostability” and “biodegradability,” since misleading, confusing, and deceptive labeling can negatively impact local composting programs and compost processors. Plastic products marketed as being “compostable” should be readily and easily identifiable as meeting these standards.