On Wednesday, October 26th, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, filed suit against the three national companies, ENSO Plastics, the makers of the water bottles and two retail sellers of bottled water, Aquamantra and Balance Water.
The lawsuit claims that the water bottles are mislabeled as being ‘biodegradable’ and do not decompose naturally as claimed. Labels on the bottles claim to have a microbial additive that would render the bottle biodegradable. The lawsuit asserts that this is wrong, that the microbial additive does not aid the breakdown process and instead only renders the bottles unrecyclable as the additive is considered a destructive contaminant that could pollute other recycled material.
Under a 2008 California law signed by then governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, no plastic food or beverage container can be labeled as biodegradable, degradable, or compostable. This year, governor Jerry Brown expanded the law to include all plastic products, from food and beverage containers to any other common plastic material. This lawsuit could potentially set an important precedent in the way companies and manufacturers of plastics label their products.
The mislabeling of products as being more environmentally friendly is a not a new occurrence, nor is this the first time a bottled water company has been sued. Earlier this year, Fiji water was sued for falsely claiming to be carbon-negative. With the rise of the ‘green’ movement and the increase in consumers leaning towards environmentally-friendly products, the practice of greenwashing, or deceptively misleading consumers into believing a product is more environmentally-friendly than it really is, has also increased.
There are several things you can do to avoid the misleading and environmentally harmful practice of greenwashing.
- Stop supporting companies such as Fiji, Aquamantra and Balance that lie about the biodegradability and sustainability of their products. Stop buying their products until they stop deceptively labeling their bottles.
- Stop purchasing single use water bottles overall. Buy a reuseable water bottle and drink tap water instead. Bottled water is in no way safer to drink that tap water, and is in fact much more environmentally wasteful and can even be harmful for human consumption.
- Keep informed on which companies are actually environmentally-friendly and which are only marketing themselves as such. Greenpeace maintains a comprehensive site that details many companies deceptive marketing practices.