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Circular claims for PET bottles ‘mislead consumers’

Claims by leading brands and plastics manufacturers that PET beverage bottles are either ‘100% recyclable’ or ‘100% recycled’ are likely to be misleading consumers, according to a new report.

Circular economy specialists at Eunomia Research & Consulting point out that the body of such bottles is recyclable and capable of being recycled back into bottles at scale, the ink, labelling and adhesives are generally very unlikely to be circular. While the caps are likely to be recyclable at scale, the report says they are not processed into new caps.

According to Eunomia, ‘circularity claims may be in some cases inaccurate, and overall give an impression of the “sustainability” of PET beverage bottles that does not reflect reality’.

The report, ‘100% Greenwash – Green claims on PET Beverage Bottles in Europe’, was researched and written by Eunomia on behalf of ClientEarth, the Environmental Coalition on Standards (ECOS) and Zero Waste Europe.

It warns that companies should address these practices to avoid misleading consumers and potentially breaching consumer protection law.

The term ‘recyclable’ is seen as ambiguous and it recommends that labels provide consumers with clear instructions on how to dispose of packaging.

‘This report clearly demonstrates that “plastic bottle circularity” is a myth,’ says lawyer Rosa Pritchard from ClientEarth.Claims on bottles that promote this idea risk misleading consumers and presenting an obstacle to the green transition. Consumers need access to fair, honest information about the environmental impacts of products, and clear information on recycling.’

Fanny Rateau, programme manager at ECOS, adds: ‘We are facing a plastic pollution crisis, and we need full transparency and traceability from producers, using accurate and reliable information that consumers can trust.’

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