A product page for dog waste bags on www.ancol.co.uk, seen on 2 March 2018, featured text which stated "Refill Poop Bag Rolls...These thick waste bags are biodegradable to lessen your dog's impact on the environment".
The complainant, who believed that the bags were made of a material that was not capable of biodegradation, challenged whether the claim "Refill Poop Bag Rolls...These thick waste bags are biodegradable to lessen your dog's impact on the environment" was misleading and could be substantiated.
Ancol Pet Products Ltd (Ancol) said that their bags were produced using a controlled-life plastic technology, which was added during the manufacturing stage of production of their bags. They stated that the material used converted everyday plastic products into materials which were biodegradable in the open environment.
Ancol said that they classed their bags as oxo-biodegradable because they contained extra ingredients which catalysed the degradation process so that they degraded much quicker than ordinary plastics in the presence of oxygen. They said that this process meant that the product was converted to organic materials which were then biodegradable by bacteria, and that the timescale for complete biodegradation was much shorter than conventional plastics.
Ancol said that they are were in the process of conducting testing which they believed would demonstrate the product's capability to biodegrade as specified.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand the term "biodegradable" to mean the capability of a product to disintegrate and decompose safely and relatively quickly in the open environment, leaving nothing behind.
We acknowledged Ancol’s comments with regard to the additive and its ability to control and shorten the life of normal plastic products and packaging. However, no evidence had been provided to demonstrate this and that the product was consequently biodegradable.
We consulted Defra over the topic of oxo-degradable plastics. We understood that oxo-degradable plastics degraded quicker in the open environment than conventional plastics. However, we also acknowledged that there were concerns that plastic fragments and smaller, microplastics were left behind, which could have a harmful effect on the open environment, and in particular marine life.
We understood from Defra that oxo-degradable plastics left in the open environment degraded (broke up into small fragments) in two to five years, and that biodegradation of those plastics could only occur once they had fragmented. We considered that this length of time was not in line with how consumers were likely to interpret the term 'biodegradable' as set out above.
Because of those concerns and because no testing or evidence had been provided to demonstrate the bags ability to biodegrade, we concluded that the claims that the product was biodegradable and would lessen the impact of dogs on the environment were misleading and had not been substantiated.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Ancol Pet Products Ltd to ensure that their future advertising did not mislead by making environmental claims unless they held adequate evidence to substantiate those claims.