Day 10: Oct. 21, 2009.

February 4, 2010

The next day I received the following email from the educational tour guide at Recycle America:

Chandler,

I just received this and will gladly answer as best I can but it will not be until tomorrow as I have tours.  I appreciate your patience. 

Lisa

Okay…what else can I do in the meantime to move this initiative forward?

I thought back to the lectures at the SPC’s members-only meeting in Atlanta. The president of Environmental Packaging International (hereafter, EPI) gave a very honest presentation about environmental marketing. Basically he explained what kinds of environmental claims on packaging are misleading or manipulative and what kinds are acceptable. Because the FTC is being restructured, he explained, they have not been able to investigate the environmental claims on packaging; however, that will change, and those making unsubstantiated or vague claims will be sought out by the FTC. Therefore, he explained, it is in all of our interest to only make claims that can be validated via scientific analysis.  

Hurray, I remember thinking. Finally, marketers will be held accountable for manipulating consumer’s desires to do well by the environment.

To be honest, I probably would not have a job at Dordan as the Sustainability Coordinator if people in our industry were not greenwashing. In other words, it was because my father, the CEO of Dordan, didn’t know how to interpret the claims being made by our competitors that he hired me to investigate them. And what I found, more often than not, was because the FTC didn’t have the man power to investigate environmental claims our industry was in sort of a Wild West limbo where marketers could get away with saying almost anything. This Wild West limbo was catalyzed by the recent consumer research that showed how most consumers would buy the product with the better environmental profile if at a comparable cost and performance to other, less environmentally friendly products. I am sure we are all familiar with this…

Anyway, I remember the President of the EPI discussing the Mobius Loop symbol and how that can be a form of greenwashing in and of itself insofar as it implies recyclability or recycled content. All of our packages have this symbol, which houses the SPI resin identification number; both the symbol and ID number were mandated by SPI (Society of Plastics Industry) decades ago.

I sent the President the following email, hoping to get some clarification about the applicability of this symbol to our packages:

Hello,

This is Chandler Slavin with Dordan Manufacturing—we spoke briefly following your presentation in Atlanta entitled, “Are the Labeling and Green Claims on Your Packaging Meeting FTC and Retailer Requirements?” First, I wanted to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for your presentation: it was the most honest, direct, and educationally insightful discussion I had yet experienced at the forum. At the same time, however, there are some questions still lingering.

For instance, you said that the mobius loop i.e. chasing arrows symbol, which houses the SPI resin identification number, implies to the consumer that the package is either: (1) made out of 100% recycled material or, (2) is 100% recyclable. After telling this to the president of our company, we were confused because we thought that this symbol was mandated by the SPI. Are you and the FTC suggesting we remove this symbol from our packages? Is there someone at the FTC we could talk with for clarification? Is there someone at SPI that would be of assistance?

Sorry for the quick-fired questions: this is all new to us and we are trying to be honest with our labeling in order to inform our customers about the sustainability of our packages. Additionally, I would really like the opportunity to talk to you about industry-led EPR initiatives in the U.S. When would be a good time to reach you?

Best,

Chandler Slavin

The same day, I received the following email from the President of the EPI:

Chandler,

The SPI code as required by 39 State Laws are allowed if used as prescribed by those laws. If you placed it in an inconspicuous location on the container (e.g., embedded in the bottom of the container) it would not constitute a claim of recyclability or recycled content and is allowed.

If you have a questions let me know, Hope this helps.

Phew…I thought to myself; we only place the chasing arrows symbol on the bottom of our packages. We are FTC clear, at least for now.

Tune in tomorrow for more recycling in America tantalizing tid bits.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: