The Commerce Commission has warned a paper packaging products company for misleading recycling claims.
Glopac New Zealand represented its hot drink cups as recyclable. In fact, New Zealand recycling streams don’t currently accept hot drink cups. Glopac made the representations on its website, social media, and on the products.
The Commerce Commission considers Glopac likely breached the Fair Trading Act by making these claims. It issued a warning letter after investigating the matter. A warning explains the Commerce Commission’s view of the conduct. It does not constitute a finding of non-compliance with the Fair Trading Act. Only the Courts can decide whether a breach of the law has occurred.
Glopac relied on test results from a German testing facility that showed the cups could be recycled. Glopac admitted it knew that hot drink cups were not accepted in recycling in New Zealand. However, it thought consumers would know that, and not put their hot drink cups into recycling.
Many hot drink cups in New Zealand contain a plastic lining, which makes them unsuitable for recycling. It is not easy to distinguish between plastic lined cups and 100 per cent paper cups. So, to avoid contaminating recycling streams, facilities do not accept any hot drink cups. Glopac’s hot drink cups are 100 per cent paper and do not have a plastic lining.
Interpretation for misleading recycling claims
Anna Rawlings, Commerce Commission chair, says, “Consumers increasingly consider the environment when making purchasing decisions. Glopac focused on the fact that the product was technically capable of being recycled, rather than the realities of what will be accepted for recycling in New Zealand. It ignored the likelihood consumers would expect that they could dispose of the product in recycling waste streams when they could not.
“We want to encourage New Zealand businesses to be innovative. However, when developing new products, businesses need to carefully consider how consumers may interpret any claims they make about their products to ensure the claims are clear and not misleading.”
Following contact from the Commission, Glopac has removed all hot drink cup recycling representations from its website and social media. In addition, it is taking steps to remove the representation from its hot drink cups.