California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris filed a lawsuit against three companies Wednesday for allegedly making false and misleading claims about their plastic water bottles' recyclability and biodegradability. The lawsuit is the first to enforce California's environmental marketing law, which makes it illegal to label a plastic food or beverage container as biodegradable because plastic takes thousands of years to break down naturally and may never do so in a landfill.
According to the lawsuit, Balance and AquaMantra plastic water bottles, marketed by ENSO Plastics in Mesa, Ariz., falsely claim the bottles are both biodegradable and recyclable. The labeling states the bottles contain a microbial additive that helps them break down in less than five years. The lawsuit says the microbial additive doesn't accelerate the breakdown process and also compromises the bottles' recyclability because the microbial additive is considered a "destructive contaminant" by the Association of Post Consumer Plastic Recyclers.
In 2008, California banned the use of the terms "biodegradable," "degradable" and "decomposable" in plastic food and beverage container labeling. California Senate Bill 567, going into effect in 2013, will expand the 2008 law to all plastic products.An email request for comment to ENSO Plastics' public-relations department did not receive a response as of publication time.