FTC Wonders: Are Dog Waste Bags Earth-Friendly?

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Makers of dog poop bags could be in deep doo-doo with the Federal Trade Commission, which doesn't want them falsely claiming that their bags are "biodegradable" or "compostable."

The FTC has sent warning letters to 20 manufacturers of dog waste bags, which pet owners use to pick up after their pets and typically throw into the trash. The letters, sent after FTC staff examined the companies' environmental claims, provide examples of potentially deceptive statements regarding the bags' environmental friendliness, their biodegradability or compostability.

The FTC said in a statement Tuesday that consumers generally believe that products labeled "biodegradable" will completely break down into its natural components within a year after disposal. "Most waste bags, however, end up in landfills where no plastic biodegrades in anywhere close to one year, if it biodegrades at all," the FTC says.

Firms Asked to Review or Remove Misleading Statements

Further, consumers believe that "compostable" means a product will safely break down at the same rate as other products added to their home compost pile, like leaves and grass clippings. However, dog feces are unsafe to add to home compost piles, and few commercial composting facilities accept them. "Therefore, compostable claims for these products are generally untrue," the statement said.

The FTC's letter advises the companies -- which it did not name -- to review their marketing claims and tell the agency how they intend to review or remove misleading statements, or explain why they won't.

"Consumers looking to buy environmentally friendly products should not have to guess whether the claims made are accurate," said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "It is therefore critical for the FTC to ensure that these claims are not misleading, to protect both consumers and honest competitors."
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