EPA proposes national standards for environmental labeling Complaints from consumers about recycling claims spark EPA move.

October 02, 1991|By Michelle Singletary | Michelle Singletary,Evening Sun Staff

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed standard definitions for the terms recycled and recyclable, marketing claims increasingly used on retail items.

Complaints from consumer groups, businesses and state officials generals across the country prompted the EPA to move a little closer to creating national standards for using language that claim products are environmentally safe.

The announcement came yesterday at a EPA-sponsored conference in Baltimore on environmental labeling which ends today.

Public opinion polls show consumers are becoming more concerned about the environment and are even willing to pay for ecologically beneficial products, but are confused and even doubtful that claims made by companies are correct.

"National guidance on the use of environmental claims would help restore consumer confidence in the information provided by marketers," said EPA Administrator William K. Reilly.

Among some of the guidelines, the EPA said when using the term recyclable marketers should not make claims that lead consumers to assume the product is recyclable everywhere.

The EPA also suggested that marketers:

* provide consumers with information to help them recycle the material.

* disclose the material's national recycling rate to indicate to consumers the general recyclability of products.

The term recyclables should mean products or materials that can be recovered from or otherwise diverted from the solid waste stream for the purpose of recycling.

The EPA is seeking comments on the voluntary guidelines via the Federal Register.

The Federal Trade Commission, which investigates deceptive advertising, is also being pressured into adopting guidelines for environmental marketing claims that would apply nationally. Yesterday, Janet D. Steiger, chairman of the FTC, said her staff is preparing proposed guidelines.

Speaking during a luncheon at the Hyatt Regency yesterday, Steiger said in the area of "green marketing" claims more needs to be done.

". . . the commission has an important role to play in providing guidance to companies that wish to make claims about the environmental attributes of their products, and the commission ought promptly to propose guidelines for public comment," Steiger said.

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