top of page
  • Writer's pictureLouise Talbot


We've all seen the familiar 'recycled' symbol - three arrows forming a loop. This symbol is intended to indicate what is and isn't recyclable, but it's often used as a marketing ploy to create the impression of ethical sourcing and manufacturing, even if only a small amount of the product is actually recycled. This practice is commonly known as greenwashing and has significant negative consequences.

Greenwashing and its Impact

Greenwashing is the practice of making exaggerated, misleading, or false environmental claims about a product or service. This tactic is used by companies to appeal to environmentally-conscious consumers and to create the impression that their products are more sustainable than they actually are.

For example, a product may be labeled as "green" or "eco-friendly," when in reality it has little or no environmental benefits. Or a product may be advertised as "recyclable," when it is not. This type of false advertising has become so prevalent that it has a significant impact on the environment and the recycling industry.

The Problem with False Recycling Claims

One of the most significant issues caused by greenwashing is the contamination of recycling streams. When non-recyclable materials are placed in recycling bins, they clog up the recycling system and can cause serious problems. For example, if plastic bags are placed in recycling bins, they can get tangled in machinery and shut down recycling plants.

Additionally, when non-recyclable items are mixed in with recyclable materials, it can be challenging and expensive to sort them out. Recycling facilities have to use additional resources to separate the recyclable materials from the non-recyclable ones. This process is time-consuming and expensive, and it reduces the overall effectiveness of recycling programs.

In fact, California State Senator Ben Allen once said, "It’s a basic truth-in-advertising concept. We have a lot of people who are dutifully putting materials into the recycling bins that have the recycling symbols on them, thinking that they’re going to be recycled, but actually, they’re heading straight to the landfill."

This deceptive practice is especially troubling when conscientious consumers attempt to recycle properly and use products that claim to be recycled, only to discover that their efforts are ultimately futile. The situation is made worse by the fact that less than 10 percent of plastic consumed in the United States is actually recycled, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Fortunately, this problem has been recognized and steps are being taken to address it. A coalition of environmental groups, local governments, waste haulers, and recyclers has backed a bill that would make fraudulent recycling claims illegal. If passed, the bill would cover all consumer goods and packaging sold in the state, with the exception of certain products that are already covered by existing laws, such as beverage containers and specific types of batteries.

This is a significant step forward in ensuring that consumers know exactly what they're buying and the environmental impact of the products they purchase. It's time for advertisements to carry accurate information about the contents and production methods of the goods they promote.

Thanks for reading!


bottom of page