The words “biodegradable” and “compostable” are not words companies should just throw around as marketing gimmicks. In California, they are starting to mean something.
Plastic products sold in California with “biodegradable” and “compostable” printed on their labels cost Walmart nearly $1 million in a settlement earlier this month.
County district attorneys say the world’s largest retailer ran afoul of a California law that bans products labeled “biodegradable” and requires those using the word “compostable” to meet ASTM compostability standards.
Walmart is not the first company to find itself at odds with California law: The first lawsuit citing the law came in 2011, when three water bottle companies were sued by California’s attorney general for making “false and misleading claims” about how their products break down. The case was settled the following year.
It’s a scenario that could be popping up more and more as advocacy groups push for more states to follow suit, according to the US Composting Council, which has written model legislation for regulating labels.
As states pass similar laws, “then certainly you’ll see cases being brought using that legislation,” said Cary Oshins, associate director of the US Composting Council.