Insights Misleading green disposal claims: UK Advertising Standards Authority updates guidance


Following consumer research and an issue-led review on claims made about how products can be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way, the Advertising Standards Authority has updated its guidance, “The environment: misleading claims and social responsibility in advertising” which applies to non-broadcast and broadcast advertising. Green disposal claims use terms such as “recyclable”/”recycling”, “biodegradable”, “compostable” and “plastic alternative” and the research revealed that consumers do not always understand what these terms mean.

The revised document provides guidance on the type of information that, if provided by an advertiser, would mean the claims are less likely to mislead. This includes clarifying whether the claim relates to all or part of the product. A claim that a bottle is 100% recycled would be misleading if the cap and label are not 100% recycled. Advertisers should also provide information on the product’s disposal process if this is likely to differ from the average consumer’s expectation, such as by reference to specific recycling schemes or the need for industrial composting for the product concerned. The more time it takes for a product to fully biodegrade or compost, the more likely it is to be material information that must be provided to consumers, and adverts which make it clear that disposal can result in harmful by-products (e.g. methane) are more likely to comply with the ASA Codes. As with any claim, disposal claims must be substantiated by evidence that relates to the likely conditions of use. For example, a claim that dog waste bags are biodegradable is likely to mislead if they are not biodegradable when disposed of in the manner called for on the product packaging, such as in dog waste disposal bins.

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