On January 17, 2024, the European Parliament a directive to curtail greenwashing claims in the European Union (593 for, 21 against, 14 abstentions). The directive will regulate the use of sustainability labels and ban environmental claims without proof. According to the Parliament, “only sustainability labels based on official certification schemes or established by public authorities will be allowed in the EU” and claims like “environmentally friendly” or “biodegradable” can’t be used without proof. Emissions offsets also cannot be used to make “climate neutral” or other related claims.  

The European Council still needs to give their official approval, at which point EU Member States have two years to incorporate the directive into national law.  

Confusion around terms such as “biodegradable”, “compostable”, and “plant-based” causes considerable consumer confusion (FPF reported). They lead to increased costs and trouble for waste managers at both composting and recycling facilities (FPF reported). 

At a meeting held by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), a certification organization, in October 2023, compost company representatives from the US and Canada discussed the problems that come from contamination within the organic waste stream. on the event by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition quotes Erin Skelly of the SMSC Organics Recycling Facility explaining that, “oxodegradable, biodegradable, eco-friendly, and all-natural are not standards and can be very misleading for consumers” (FPF reported). Workers at organic waste facilities have to spend time picking out plastic bags and other products that don’t have an official, understood degradability certification.  

A survey of US consumers published in July 2023 found that half of respondents do not dispose of packaging correctly and do not understand the difference between compostable and biodegradable (FPF reported). The Food Packaging Forum published a factsheet on bioplastics to help alleviate confusion on the subject, and it is available in English, Spanish, and French.   

The European Parliament’s new directive comes in addition to the Green Claims Directive announced in March 2023 (FPF reported). “The upcoming green claims directive will be more specific and elaborate the conditions for using environmental claims in greater detail.” 

 

References 

European Parliament (January 17, 2024). “.”  

Savannah Guinyard (November 7, 2023). “.” Sustainable Packaging Coalition 

Read more 

Shanda Moorghen (January 18, 2024). “.” Enhesa  

European Parliament (September 19, 2023). “.”  

Adrian Zender (January 31, 2024). “.” SRF (in German).