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When recyclable Is not recyclable

Semantics is everything – especially when you’re talking about recyclable products. The word “recyclable” can trip up a manufacturer if they’re not careful. Take the recent case of the Wisconsin company, Renew Plastics, whose plastic lumber products didn’t meet the FTC’s Green Guide for recyclable. The FTC’s investigation found a problem with the company’s claim that its Evolve products are made from 90 percent or more recycled content, when it contained “at most 58 percent.” Another product’s promotional materials claimed that they are made from “mostly” post-consumer recycled content, which tests subsequently showed it contained less than 12 percent post-consumer “on average.”

And remember, according to the FTC Green Guide, to make a claim that a product is recyclable, the product or package must be “collected, separated, or otherwise recovered from the waste stream through an established recycling program for reuse or use in manufacturing, assembling another item,” says the FTC Green Guide. That means if you sell your products in an area that has no means of collecting, separating or recovering your product or package from the waste stream, it is not recyclable.  While there were recycling facilities in the area of Renew Plastics, none of them take plastic lumber products – so in essence, their products are not recyclable.

Also, products may contain recycled plastic content, but may not be “recyclable” because of other materials. For example, there are a lot of wood plastic composite (WPC) lumber products on the market that use recycled plastics in their content. However, because of the wood component (saw dust, etc.) in the product, a plastic recycler won’t take it. “If any component significantly limits the ability to recycle the item, any recyclable claim would be deceptive,” says the FTC’s Green Guide.

The FTC’s Green Guide’s purpose is to keep the truth in making claims, and to ensure that companies who talk the talk also walk the walk.  The plastics industry’s goal is to keep the science in these “green” issues. The plastics industry doesn’t need any more “black eyes.”

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