Make a Splash, Avoid the Trash: Novel Swimwear Line Highlights Standards for Making "Compostable" Claims

As the summer draws to a close, it may soon be time to retire that swimsuit of yours. Maybe return it to a suitcase in the closet or under the bed. Maybe it's seen better days and it's time for it to be thrown away altogether. But what if there were another option? What if you could just toss it in the compost bin? That is what fashion designer Linda Loudermilk has proposed for what is claimed to be the first ever compostable swimsuit. Debuting at a Miami fashion show this summer, the "sustainable swimwear" promises to decompose within 180 days once buried under ground. As such, we thought that this novel idea presented a good opportunity to remind readers about how the proposed revisions to the FTC's Green Guides treat claims that a product is compostable. As we have previously reported, the FTC is in the process of revising its Green Guides, and is currently reviewing the hundreds of comments submitted in response to the proposed revisions announced last year. Under the proposed revisions, it is important to keep in mind both how long it will take a product to break down and where that breakdown will occur. First, as to the timing, the FTC's proposal would clarify that the use of a "compostable" claim is appropriate where the product or package will break down in approximately the same time as the materials with which it is composted. That means that your compostable product — be it swimsuit or otherwise — must break down at the same rate as the twigs, grass, or other clippings tossed into the compost pile. As to the location, the FTC notes that although some products can break down in a compost pile in the backyard, other products will only decompose in a municipal composting facility. For the latter category, the proposed revisions state that an unqualified claim that a product is compostable is permitted only where a substantial majority (informally interpreted to mean 60%) of consumers or communities have access to composting facilities. Because municipal composting facilities remain uncommon and most consumers likely do not have access to them, unqualified claims of this nature will probably be rare. We haven't seen specifics about the swimsuit but it sounds like it's designed to compost in backyard compost facilities. And if your laundry pile looks anything like ours, make sure you don't accidentally leave the swimsuit there all winter and wonder in the Spring where all the dirt came from. – Randy Shaheen and Allyson Himelfarb

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