Discerning pup parents do their research. They want to know where the meat in their dog’s food was sourced, which dog walkers have the best reviews on Yelp, the list goes on. For many, this includes not only wanting to do what’s best for their dog, but for the planet, too. But if you’re shelling out for poo bags labeled “biodegradable” and “compostable,” you might be wasting your green on something that’s only “green” in name.
This Tuesday, the Federal Trade Commission put 20 poo bag manufacturing and marketing companies on notice for their websites and media containing “examples of potentially deceptive statements regarding the bags’ biodegradability or compostability.”
“Consumers looking to buy environmentally friendly products should not have to guess whether the claims made are accurate,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “It is therefore critical for the FTC to ensure that these claims are not misleading, to protect both consumers and honest competitors.”
According to the FTC’s Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims (the Green Guides), an unqualified claim that a product is biodegradable leads people to believe that it will break down within a year following its usual method of disposal – but most dog owners throw their dog’s poo bags in a trashcan. This means it’s headed to a landfill where plastic will not biodegrade in a year, if ever. Strike one.
The same issue applies to claims that a product is compostable. True, the bags are compostable in commercial or municipal facilities, but most of those composting centers will not accept pet waste. And if you’re thinking of DIY-ing it, dog poo is considered unsafe to compost at home because of harmful pathogens. Strike two.
The FTC will not release the names of the companies at this time, but Mitchell Katz of the FTC’s Office of Public Affairs did tell BarkPost that appropriate action will be taken against them, if necessary.
“We are not implicating an entire industry or product as being non-environmentally friendly. We want to give benefit of doubt and allow the companies time to provide substantiation, if they have it. If they don’t comply or change their marketing, we will bring enforcement actions against them.”
While the companies in question await the swift paw of justice, Mitchell suggests that pup parents looking for peace of mind familiarize themselves with the FTC’s definition and standards for exactly what biodegradable and compostable mean. If consumers suspect a company is being deceptive, they can should file a formal complaint with the FTC.