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Paper cup maker drops recycling claims after being caught greenwashing

Paper packaging products company Glopac has been ticked off for greenwashing by the Commerce Commission for promoting its paper cups as recyclable when that is not possible in New Zealand. 

The commission says Glopac likely breached the Fair Trading Act by making claims on its website, via social media and on the products itself that its hot drink cups were recyclable and issued a warning letter after investigating the matter.

In fact, hot drink cups are not currently accepted into recycling streams in New Zealand because many of them contain plastic lining. While Glopac’s do not contain plastic, recycling companies find it hard to differentiate between them, therefore they are not collected. 

According to the commission, Glopac relied on test results from a German testing facility which showed the cups were capable of being recycled. “Glopac admitted it knew that hot drink cups were not accepted in recycling in New Zealand, but it thought that consumers would know that, and not put their hot drink cups into recycling,” the commission said in a statement.

Consumer NZ CEO Jon Duffy said the commission’s warning reflects that companies understand the power of marketing their products as being environmentally friendly – even if it is not relevant to a market, as in this case.

“Recyclable ‘in theory’ doesn’t cut it,” said Duffy.

“Consumers want to do the right thing for the planet. This type of greenwashing takes advantage of that goodwill for profit.”

He said Consumer NZ was pleased to see the commission calling Glopac out. 

“Companies need to take the shortcomings in New Zealand’s recycling ecosystem into account before making claims that their products can be recycled.”

Some of the paper cups Glopac is promoting on its website.

Commission chair Anna Rawlings said Kiwis are increasingly considering the environment when making purchasing decisions and by focusing on the fact that their product was technically capable of being recycled, “rather than the realities of what will be accepted for recycling in New Zealand” was misleading. 

“The likelihood [is] that consumers would expect the product could be disposed of in recycling waste streams when it could not,” she said.

“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.”

Glopac has removed hot drink cup recycling representations from its website and social media and is taking steps to remove the representation from its hot drink cups.

(Note: Featured image for illustrative purposes only).

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