Woolworths has come out on top following a Federal Court case taken by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) over the compostability of its ‘Select eco’ range of disposable plates, bowls and cutlery.
On Friday, the court found that the range, sold between 2014 and 2017, was “biodegradable and compostable” and that the environmental claims made by Woolworths were not false or misleading.
The products, released in 2014, were made from materials derived from corn starch or sugarcane and other natural materials. The were labelled “biodegradable and compostable” based on the application of internationally accepted standards.
Woolworths said an independent certification was provided. At the time, there was no mandatory Australian standard to guide how biodegradability and compostability claims must be conveyed to consumers at the time, which remains the case.
The ACCC instituted proceedings against Woolworths in 2018 on that basis that a consumer could reasonably expect the disposable products would decompose in landfills or domestic composting within a reasonable time.
“We took this case because we believed the representations were false or misleading and Woolworths did not have a reasonable basis to make these claims. We are carefully considering the Court’s judgment,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
Woolworths said that in order to make the claim that a product was compostable it should break down into usable compost within two years.
It had an expert conduct tests which found the products, in the correct conditions, turned into compost within six weeks, AAP reported.
A Woolworths spokesperson said the company is “pleased with the outcome of the Federal Court judgment”.
“We have always treated our obligations under the Australian Consumer Law very seriously, and understand how important it is that our customers can trust the environmental claims we make.”
Woolworths said it is working closely with the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation and the Australian Industry Group to help drive consistency of labelling.
A week prior, the Federal Court sided with FMCG giant Kimberly-Clark in another environmental case taken by the ACCC based on the “flushability” of its Kleenex Cottonelle wipes.