Compliance with California Law SB567

Use of Term 'Biodegradable' on Plastic Products in California
Frequently Asked Questions


Q: Why is the word 'biodegradable' no longer on products in California?
A: The California legislature (SB567) banned its use on plastics sold in California until the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) adopts a new standard specification for biodegradability and the legislature then approves of that new standard specification. This is in process but may take many months to finalize. It is too difficult for us to separate out products for sale in California versus those for sale in the rest of the country, so we took off that word for all products.
Q: Is the product still biodegradable? (California answer)
A: Because of the new requirements implemented by the California legislature (SB567), we cannot call plastic products that we sell into California 'biodegradable' effective January 1, 2013. We will work with the California legislature to seek its adoption of the new ASTM standard and will conduct testing under the new standard that should allow us to again label appropriate plastic products as 'biodegradable' in California.
Q: Is the product still biodegradable? (Rest of the country, excluding California)
A: Nothing has changed. The product still contains an additive that accelerates biodegradation when in the presence of microorganisms. It biodegrades over the course of years, the precise timing of which is determined by the conditions in which placed. Since the condition of landfills and the level of microbial activity varies from place to place, the timing of the biodegradation also varies. The new ASTM standard specification will help us determine the timing a little better.
Q: Why did the California legislature do this?

A: Environmental groups and competitive bio-based producer groups have been trying to keep plastics producers from making products that are labeled 'biodegradable.' These groups have varying agendas, including the unproven assumption that having biodegradable plastics increases plastics use, the incorrect assertion that the plastics, even with the additive, don't biodegrade, the attempt to limit competitive products, and the general bias of environmental groups against plastics, even when plastics may in many instances be a better product environmentally than alternatives.

The California legislature is quite receptive of the environmental groups, even at the expense of the economic impact and of evidence supporting alternative positions. Rather than allowing an opportunity to first develop a standard specification before implementing the law, the legislature went ahead and banned the use of the term 'biodegradable' without providing sufficient time to produce the specification and to perform the appropriate testing. We believe that with the effort being made to adopt an ASTM standard specification and testing, with substantial scientific support, the legislature will reconsider its position during the coming legislative session. We also believe that ultimately having the ASTM standard specification is a good thing that will help further demonstrate the viability of our biodegradable products.


For more information please see: Partner Compliance with California Law Regarding Use of Term 'Biodegradable'