Get real about your recycling claims

Next week is Recycle Week 2022, getting real about recycling is this year’s focus. For the ASA and CAP this means making sure claims about recyclability or a product’s recycled content are accurate, clear and don’t exaggerate.

Climate change and the environment are currently high on the ASA and CAP’s agenda, and you can expect to see more rulings and updates to guidance in the coming months. Make sure you don’t miss these by signing up for updates if you haven’t already done so.

Alongside the work we’re doing, the Competition and Markets Authority is also undertaking an in-depth project to tackle misleading environmental claims.

Here, we’ll summarise some key aspects of CAP’s guidance on, and the ASA’s approach to, recycling claims.

Claims about recycled material, recycling and recyclability must be supported by evidence

Marketers should ensure they hold suitable evidence in substantiation of the recycling claims they make.  Importantly, they should hold that evidence prior to the publication of any ad making such a claim. 

Headline statements such as “100% recycled” are unlikely to be acceptable if they come with caveats. An ad for Lipton Ice Tea included such a claim along with an asterisk linking to text reading “Bottle made from recycled plastic, excludes cap and label”. The ASA rejected the advertiser’s argument that this clarified, rather than contradicted, the headline claim and upheld the complaint.

On a slightly different tack, marketers should also not make claims about the amount they recycle unless they hold evidence.  The ASA did not uphold a complaint made by a waste management company claiming “94% of Waste Diverted from Landfill” after the advertiser was able to provide robust evidence supporting that claim. 

Claims should not exaggerate the recyclability of a product

Marketers should ensure that they only describe products as being “recyclable” if they are actually capable of being recycled. Ads shouldn’t omit any important information likely to affect a consumer’s understanding of a claim, nor should claims that exaggerate the recyclability of a product or its packaging be made. The ASA has previously upheld complaints about claims that packaging was “100% recyclable” when it actually contained a plastic element that was not widely recyclable.

More generally, claims should not give the impression that a marketer’s products are greener or more sustainable than they really are. For example, focusing on claims that represent a minor positive impact, when an advertiser’s main business produces significant negative effects, is unlikely to be acceptable.

For further information on how to make sure your ads comply with the Code, the Copy Advice team is always on hand to provide free, fast and bespoke advice.

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