Broaden "recyclable' claim and recycling will follow, FTC told

By failing to broaden its definition of recyclable, the Federal Trade Commission has created a hindrance to the growth of local recycling programs, argues Jack Lewis, vice president of the Paperboard Packaging Council (PPC).

Less restrictive guidelines would help manufacturers and users of paperboard packaging overcome public misunderstanding and past experience about its recyclability, Lewis said. Many consumers are unaware that several recyclers now accept paperboard. This sentiment arose from a two-day workshop in December, where FTC met with private and public interest groups to review its environmental claims guidelines. PPC urged FTC to allow use of "recyclable" on a label where a "significant number" of communities recycle the material, rather than the "substantial majority" required in current guidelines. The trade association also called for the term "recyclable" to be followed by a noun, e.g., "recyclable package," to reduce any misunderstanding by consumers. Those making the claim would be required to have documentation proving that there is an economically viable market for the recovered material in question. Some of the most significant input at the workshop came from Peter Bunten, speaking for the American Forest and Paper Association (AFPA). AFPA, said Bunten, had decided to change its position and support the PPC's position on the use of the term "recyclable." Bunten advised FTC that delegates from the International Standards Organization had adopted a similar standard at a meeting on recycling in Seoul, Korea. Given the importance of and emphasis on new international trade by federal agencies, this may have changed the commission's outlook on use of the term "recyclable," said PPC Vice President Jack Lewis. "I watched the expressions on the faces of the FTC representatives as Bunten spoke," Lewis said. "They were dumbfounded." Expectedly, FTC is hedging on whether it will adopt PPC's proposed standard. Speaking of the December workshop, Lee Peeler, associate director for advertising practices at FTC, says gamely that "the level of discussion was very good." He does say that FTC is rethinking the guidelines, and that his group will draft up recommendations to be voted on by the commission itself. The issue could be resolved by Spring.

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