Truth-in-Labeling LawsProtecting California Consumers from False Marketing Claims
California has enacted multiple laws protecting consumers from misleading and untrue environmental marketing claims to promote and sell products. Inaccurate information can compel consumers to buy more expensive products and packaging that seem better for the environment but are in reality, routinely landfilled or, worse, littered.
As a result, California continues to strengthen laws that restrict the marketing of products with terms such as “recyclable,” “biodegradable,” and “compostable.”
Degradable and Compostable Products
California law specifically restricts marketing products with terms like “biodegradable”
While some products and packaging are designed to biodegrade and be composted at the end of use, the degradation process is very complex, and how much and how quickly a product will truly break down is dependent on multiple factors. Including:
- The product’s physical structure, thickness, and weight
- The chemical ingredients and additives in a product
- Attachments or labels on a product
- The time, range of temperatures, and environmental conditions to which a product is exposed
Whether explicit or implied, environmental marketing claims must be substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence and meet specified standards to prevent misleading consumers about the environmental impact of degradable products.
The law specifies requirements for labeling products “compostable.”
In California, a “compostable” consumer product must meet specific legal requirements in order to be labeled “compostable.”
The law defines “consumer product” as a product or part of a product used, bought, or leased for use by a person for any purpose.
Compostable Standard Specifications
- Compostable plastic products must meet the requirements of ASTM D6400-19.
- Compostable plastic-coated fiber products must meet the requirements of ASTM D6868-19.
- Any consumer product labeled “Home Compostable” must be certified to meet the OK compost HOME certification requirements.
- Compostable consumer products must also meet all the following requirements:
- Have a total organic fluorine concentration of less than 100 parts per million.
- Be labeled in a manner that distinguishes it from noncompostable products.
- Be designed to be associated with the recovery of desirable organic wastes, such as food scraps and yard trimmings.
- Beginning January 1, 2026, all compostable consumer products must be made of materials that are allowable agricultural organic inputs under the USDA National Organic Program requirements.
Compostable Plastic Bags
- A compostable plastic bag must meet the following labeling requirements:
- Be labeled with a certification logo indicating the bag is certified to ASTM D6400-19.
- Shall not display a chasing arrow resin identification code or recycling type symbol in any form.
- Be labeled in accordance with one of the following:
- The bag must be a uniform color of green and be labeled with the word ”compostable” at least one inch in height on one side of the bag.
- The bag must be labeled with the word “compostable” on both sides of the bag with a one-inch in height green color lettering or green color band with contrasting lettering.
To access the full requirements of the law, please review California Public Resources Code Section 42355 – 42358.5.
For more information contact: Rigid Plastic Packaging Containers, RPPC@calrecycle.ca.gov.