BEUC and member organisations from 13 countries have reported several major drinking water bottle traders to EU authorities over “misleading commercial claims” about the recyclability of their products.
A new report by the BEUC says recyclability claims from brands such as Coca-Cola, Danone and Nestlé Waters/Nestlé do not comply with the EU rules on unfair commercial practices. The report was compiled with ClientEarth and ECOS (Environmental Coalition on Standards).
BEUC and its members have filed a complaint to the European Commission and the network of consumer protection authorities (CPC), calling on them to launch an investigation. BEUC is the umbrella group for 45 independent consumer organisations from 31 countries.
According to the report, the beverage industry “resorts to recyclability claims” that are too vague, inaccurate, and/or insufficiently substantiated. The analysis identified three key claims of concern: “100% recyclable”, “100% recycled”, and the use of green imagery.
BEUC describes the term 100% recyclable as “ambiguous” and says it depends on many factors such as the available infrastructure to collect material, the effectiveness of the sorting process, and appropriate recycling processes.
Using ‘100% recycled/recyclable’ claims or displaying nature images and green visuals that insinuate that plastic is environmentally friendly is misleading consumers.
The report also claims the term 100% recycled “wrongly implies” the full bottle is made entirely from recycled materials. BEUC says bottle lids cannot be made of recycled materials under EU law, labels are rarely made from recycled material, and it is “common practice” to add virgin plastic to the body of a bottle.
The final key claim BEUC highlights concerns with is the use of green imagery. It says using closed loops, green logos, or nature images to brand water bottles prompts the “false idea” of environmental neutrality, plastic circularity, and may give the impression that the bottles have a positive impact on the environment.
Ursula Pachl, Deputy Director General of BEUC, commented: “Using ‘100% recycled/recyclable’ claims or displaying nature images and green visuals that insinuate that plastic is environmentally friendly is misleading consumers.
“Such claims however can be found on many water bottles sold across Europe. The problem is that there’s no guarantee it will be fully recycled once it’s in the bin. This greenwashing must stop.
“The EU is taking much-welcomed steps with how to help clean up the market from deceiving green claims. However, it will take years before new regulatory measures will apply and there is no time to waste, so we expect authorities to take action quickly.”
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