Major drinks brands reported to EU by consumer groups over ‘greenwashing’ claims

A consumer group made up of organisations across 13 countries has reported brands including Coca-Cola, Danone and Nestlé for what it says are misleading commercial claims about the recyclability of their products.

European consumer group BEUC says that, according to its analysis – carried out together with environmental groups ClientEarth and Environmental Coalition on Standards – such claims do not comply with the EU rules on unfair commercial practices.

The group says that the beverage industry makes recyclability claims that are “too vague, inaccurate and insufficiently substantiated”. Among the areas of concern is the use of the term ‘100% recyclable’ which it warns depends on many factors such as the available infrastructure to collect material, the effectiveness of the sorting process, or appropriate recycling processes. The recycling rate for PET beverage bottle bodies is estimated to be only 55% in the EU and research suggests that the chance of it becoming a bottle again around 30%.

It adds that ‘100% recycled’ misleads by wrongly implying that the full bottle is made entirely from recycled materials, even though bottle lids cannot be made of recycled materials by EU law and labels are rarely made from recycled material. BEUC says that adding virgin (non-recycled) plastic to the body of the bottle is also a common practice.

The complaint also includes the use of green imagery such as closed loops, green logos or nature images which BEUC says prompt the false idea of environmental neutrality or could give the impression that the bottles would have a positive impact on the environment.

BEUC and its members have filed a complaint to the European Commission and the network of consumer protection authorities, calling on them to launch an investigation. Ursula Pachl, deputy director general of BEUC, said: “Using ‘100% recycled/recyclable’ claims or displaying nature images and green visuals that insinuate that plastic is environmentally friendly is misleading consumers. Such claims however can be found on many water bottles sold across Europe. The problem is that there’s no guarantee it will be fully recycled once it’s in the bin. This greenwashing must stop.”

“The EU is taking much welcomed steps with how to help clean up the market from deceiving green claims. However, it will take years before new regulatory measures will apply and there is no time to waste, so we expect authorities to take action quickly.”

Image courtesy Siemens

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