2021 is going to be a year of sustainability. Besides being, well–a new year–there was a huge spike in plastic pollution in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. And that brought plastic pollution back to the forefront of everyone’s minds. Businesses are looking for opportunities to make changes, and to eliminate as much plastic from their operations as possible. Compostables are a great alternative in the space of single-use plastics, however it can be quite confusing to navigate the world of green marketing. While there are some federal restrictions and guidelines when it comes to preventing greenwashing, many states also have individual regulations, and specific cities can have even more restrictions as well. We’re here to assist you in understanding the green marketing process, and also to help eliminate discouragement about utilizing and providing compostable products just because their marketing is a bit more complicated.
Our first tip: avoid vague phrases like “eco-friendly,” “greener than before,” and other similar phrases. These types of phrases can be misleading because they don’t convey to the consumer the exact environmental benefit that the product provides. In the case of green marketing, the more specific you can be in your claims, the better. This will encourage consumers to trust your brand because you are up front about your product, and it protects you from legal action that may be taken against you. Tip number 2 is to always be able to back up claims with scientific evidence. Whenever you make an environmental claim of any sort, have the test reports to back up that claim. While you don’t have to list out results on the packaging, it’s important to have them on-hand should a consumer or customer request them. Tip number 3 completes the trifecta: always have compostable products certified by the proper certifying body, and convey those certifications prominently on packaging. By completing and displaying your certifications from organizations like BPI and TUV, you are confirming that you have backup from multiple sources for your claims.
Besides this trifecta of steps you can take to backup your claims and protect your business, and mitigate risk for your customers, there are some general phrases you can use that can be helpful to your customer. For a home compostable product, you have the most freedom. Phrases like, “backyard compostable” and “biodegradable in any terrestrial environment” can safely be applied to home compostable products. As always, we recommend obtaining a TUV OK compost HOME certification to be sure you have the proper backing to your claims. For industrially compostable products, it’s important to be clear about the difference between home and industrially compostable. Phrases such as “compostable in municipal facilities” or “compostable under specialized and controlled conditions” make it clear to the consumer the importance of proper disposal for industrial compostable products. Most industrially compostable products also include disclaimers encouraging consumers to ensure that there is an industrial composting facility in their area as well. As always, get the product certified by either TUV’s OK compost INDUSTRIAL or BPI in order to ensure you have backed your claims.
The last note we want to make is on marine biodegradable claims. Newly developed bioplastic materials can be certified for biodegradation in a marine environment by TUV’s OK biodegradable MARINE. However, to avoid having consumers toss trash in the ocean, this certification cannot be conveyed on products that are not meant for use in a marine environment (for example, drinking straws). To work within the rules, you can state that these types of products are “made from a certified marine degradable material” or that they “will biodegrade in oceans, should they accidentally end up there.”
Green marketing is a complex and tricky world. You want to properly convey the environmental benefits of your product to your customers without being misleading and while protecting your intellectual property. There is a fine line you have to walk. But, by making specific and clear claims that are backed by scientific reports and third-party certifications, you can protect your business, your customer, and most importantly, the planet.