Circularity claims on PET beverage bottles – such as ‘100% recyclable’ or ‘100% recycled’ – are likely to be misleading consumers, according to a new report published yesterday (31 Oct) by ClientEarth, ECOS (Environmental Coalition on Standards), Eunomia Research & Consulting and Zero Waste Europe.
Previous work by circular economy specialists at Eunomia concluded that PET is not currently a circular material within even the best recycling systems in Europe.
This new report shows that circularity claims may in some cases be inaccurate, and overall give an impression of the ‘sustainability’ of PET beverage bottles that does not reflect reality.
The report warns that companies should address these practices to avoid misleading consumers and potentially breaching consumer protection law.
‘Eunomia’s new report shows that many green claims about the circularity of recycled plastic beverage bottles are often factually incorrect, or otherwise risk misleading consumers who are trying to make the right choices for the environment.
‘We are facing a plastic pollution crisis, and we need full transparency and traceability from producers, using accurate and reliable information that consumers can trust.’
The report investigates examples of on-pack claims and finds that the term ‘recyclable’ is ambiguous and should not be placed on bottles.
It recommends instead that labels provide consumers with clear instructions on how to dispose of packaging.
‘This report clearly demonstrates that ‘plastic bottle circularity’ is a myth. Claims on bottles that promote this idea risk misleading consumers and presenting an obstacle to the green transition. Consumers need access to fair, honest information about the environmental impacts of products, and clear information on recycling. Action will need to be taken on these claims to rebuild consumer confidence and better protect the planet.’
The report also finds that ‘100% recycled’ claims may not account for all the components of the bottle, as caps and labels are rarely, if ever, made from recycled content.
The authors conclude that PET beverage bottles should not be marketed using language or imagery that implies circularity or sustainability.
‘PET beverage bottles should not be marketed using language or imagery that states or implies circularity, sustainability and/or climate neutrality. Even when just considering the PET body and in the most efficient recycling system, full circularity is not technically feasible. There will always be a need for an input of virgin plastic.’
Eunomia Research & Consulting