Green Marketers, Add Something Else to Your Ad Copy Checklist: Appropriate Disposal and Recycling

The Consumer Advertising Law Blog has posted several times about the perils of making an "environmentally friendly" claim and the broad scope that the FTC and other regulators may give to such unqualified claims. However, such claims can be interpreted even more broadly than we had imagined. EarthTronics Inc., a manufacturer of compact fluorescent bulbs, just settled a case with the Massachusetts Attorney General. The AG alleged that EarthTronics' claim that it was a good steward of the environment was misleading because it had failed to comply with the state's program for managing the disposal of waste mercury in light bulbs. What is particularly interesting about this case is that it is not certain that EarthTronics violation actually caused any harm to the environment. Rather, the company failed to certify its compliance with the law and to provide consumers with information regarding proper disposal and recycling methods for its bulbs. Although the requirements here were part of a Massachusetts law, is it possible that environmentally friendly claims could soon be interpreted to mean not only that a company has not harmed the environment through its activities, but also has taken proactive steps to protect the environment. – Randy Shaheen

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