ASA calls on marketers to ‘get real’ about recycling claims

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has called on firms to ensure their claims about a product’s recycled content or recyclability are “accurate, clear and don’t exaggerate”.

The ASA has called on firms to ensure their claims about a product’s recyclability "don’t exaggerate” (picture: Shutterstock)

The ASA issued its warning ahead of the rescheduled Recycle Week 2022, set to take place from 17-23 October, which this year has a theme of “getting real about recycling”.

Marketers should ensure they hold “suitable evidence” in “substantiation” of the recycling claims they make, the UK’s advertising regulator said. They must also hold that evidence prior to the publication of an advert making a claim.

In a statement, the ASA said: “Climate change and the environment are currently high on the ASA and Committee of Advertising Practice’s agenda and you can expect to see more rulings and updates to guidance in the coming months.” The Committee of Advertising Practice is a sister organisation of the ASA and regulates the non-broadcast advertising industry.

The ASA noted the Competition and Markets Authority was also undertaking an in-depth project to tackle misleading environmental claims.

‘100% recycled’

The ASA says headline statements such as “100% recycled” are “unlikely to be acceptable” if they come with “caveats”.

The ASA rejected claims the Lipton Ice Tea bottles (not pictured) were 100% recycled, as the cap and label were not made from recycled material (picture: Shutterstock)

As one example, the ASA cited a recent advert for Lipton Ice Tea which included such a claim, along with an asterisk linking to text reading: “Bottle made from recycled plastic, excludes cap and label.”

In January, the ASA rejected the advertiser’s argument that this clarified, rather than contradicted, the headline claim and upheld a complaint about the wording.

Amount recycled

The ASA also said marketers should not make claims about the amount they recycle unless they hold evidence.

The ASA said AnyJunk had evidence for its claim that it diverted 94% of the waste it collected from landfill (picture: Shutterstock)

In a case from 2018, the regulator did not uphold a complaint about waste management company AnyJunk Ltd claiming “94% of Waste Diverted from Landfill” after the advertiser was able to provide evidence supporting that claim.

The ASA said consumers would understand the claim to mean that 94% of the waste collected by AnyJunk would not go to a landfill site but would be diverted elsewhere.

As AnyJunk had data to show 94% of the waste it had collected did not go to a landfill site but was diverted to commercial recycling facilities, the ASA considered this “adequate evidence”.

Recyclability

And, the ASA said marketers should ensure that they only describe products as being “recyclable” if they are actually capable of being recycled.

“Ads shouldn’t omit any important information likely to affect a consumer’s understanding of a claim, nor should claims that exaggerate the recyclability of a product or its packaging be made,” the regulator said.

“The ASA has previously upheld complaints about claims that packaging was ‘100% recyclable’ when it actually contained a plastic element that was not widely recyclable.”

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