BBB National Programs Archive

Solo Voluntarily Discontinues Certain ‘Green’ Claims For ‘Bare Disposable Plates’

New York, NY – July 9, 2009 – The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has determined that the Solo Cup Company took necessary and appropriate steps in discontinuing certain “green” advertising claims for the company’s Bare Disposable Plates.

NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, opened an inquiry into product description claims made by Solo on product packaging and on the Internet, following a challenge by Dixie Consumer Products, LLC, a manufacturer of competing paper plate products.  Claim at issue included:

  • “Made from bamboo and other renewable resources!”
  • “Bare dinner plates are made with natural bamboo and other renewable materials such as sugarcane, wood, reed and other natural fibers….”
  • “Bare dinnerware is an eco-forward alternative to single use tableware made mostly with petroleum products.”
  • “Bare dinnerware has a “more favorable environmental footprint” than “conventional convenience products.”

The challenger noted that it had commissioned an independent laboratory to conduct an analysis of the advertiser’s product and that, according to this test, the advertiser’s plates were made entirely of bleached and unbleached hardwoods and softwoods with no discernible bamboo found in any of the samples tested.

In response to NAD’s inquiry, the advertiser submitted laboratory testing that concluded that all the samples tested did contain bamboo.  The advertiser further obtained purchase orders, delivery documents and warehouse receipts demonstrating that significant amounts of bamboo were purchased in order to manufacture the Bare Plates.  The advertiser asserted that the raw material purchase/delivery/certification documentation, along with the laboratory analysis, provided substantial evidence that its Bare Plates contain at least 50% bamboo – more than enough to substantiate the claim that its product are made “with” bamboo.

However, the advertiser noted, in the spirit of self-regulation and out of an abundance of caution, it would voluntarily change its advertising to focus on the renewable-resource aspect of the plates, a claim that is not challenged.  The advertiser informed NAD that it will modify all future Bare Plate advertising to remove any reference to bamboo content until the Bare Plate product formulation or manufacturing processes are modified so that the bamboo fibers are more readily identifiable through microscopic analysis.

In recent decisions, NAD has noted the growing consumer demand for products that are “green” more “environmentally friendly” and simply “safer” and the response by industry, both in the development and design of new products and in the claims made in their advertising.

NAD recognizes the impact such claims may have on the purchasing decisions of consumers who are concerned with sustainability and environmental issues.  However, as consumers cannot typically verify for themselves the truth of environmental claims, advertising self-regulation is particularly important, and plays an increasingly significant role in ensuring that such claims are truthful, non-misleading and adequately substantiated.

Given this background, NAD recognized and appreciated that the advertiser voluntarily modify its advertising claims to remove any reference as to the bamboo content in its Bare disposable dinnerware – a course of action that NAD deemed necessary and proper given the evidence presented in the record.

Solo Cup, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company “prides itself on making accurate product claims and firmly supports the NAD and the self-regulatory process.”