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Plastic water bottle-makers sued by California over green claims [Updated]

October 27, 2011 |  9:22 am

AquamantraThis post has been updated. See below for details.

California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris filed a lawsuit against three companies Wednesday for allegedly making false and misleading claims about their plastic water bottles' recyclability and biodegradability. The lawsuit is the first to enforce California's environmental marketing law, which  makes it illegal to label a plastic food or beverage container as biodegradable because plastic takes thousands of years to break down naturally and may never do so in a landfill.

According to the lawsuit, Balance and AquaMantra plastic water bottles, marketed by ENSO Plastics in Mesa, Ariz., falsely claim the bottles are both biodegradable and recyclable. The labeling states the bottles contain a microbial additive that helps them break down in less than five years. The lawsuit says the microbial additive doesn't accelerate the breakdown process and also compromises the bottles' recyclability because the microbial additive is considered a "destructive contaminant" by the Assn. of Post Consumer Plastic Recyclers.

In 2008, California banned the use of the terms "biodegradable," "degradable" and "decomposable" in plastic food and beverage container labeling. Senate Bill 567, going into effect in 2013, will expand the 2008 law to all plastic products.

An email request for comment to ENSO Plastics' public-relations department did not receive a response as of publication time.

[Updated 1:40 p.m., Oct. 28: ENSO released a statement Friday in response to the lawsuit. “Our industry is young, and we are still improving standards and dispelling false beliefs," ENSO president Danny Clark said. "Our products perform as we claim, and we have the data to prove it. The situation in California is a lack of education and misunderstanding new technologies; this is not an issue of false claims. We will take this opportunity to bring legislators up to speed with ENSO technologies and the value they bring to the environment.”]

[Updated 3:01 p.m., Oct. 28:  The L.A. Bureau of Sanitation also issued a response Friday afternoon. "Development of new materials, for packaging and otherwise ... [is] often made without regard to the recycling infrastructure in place, resulting in incompatibility or outright non-recyclability of the new material," said Enrique Zaldivar, director of the bureau. "The Los Angeles Recycling Program urges the material manufacturing industry to work with the recycling (and composting) industry to avoid misrepresentations to the public on the recyclability of products."]

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-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: AquaMantra water bottles. Credit: AquaMantra.com

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