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SCIENCE

A guide to ‘green’ – and not-so-green – product labels

Text by Aurélie BLONDEL

Latest update : 2009-12-07

"Going green" is the catchphrase of the day, as evidenced by the multitude of "ecologically sound" and "sustainable" products now flooding the consumer market. But not all green logos are created equal, and many are misleading.

 

The green arrow – the mark of recyclable packaging?

Present on much of today’s packaging, this common green arrow indicates that the manufacturer made a contribution to an approved recycling organisation – an obligatory contribution for those companies who mark their products with the symbol. However, the logo does not indicate that the packaging has been, or can be, recycled.
  
The triple arrow 
 
Embossed on recycled or recyclable packaging, the onus nevertheless remains on the consumer to deposit the article in the proper recycling bin. If the packaging is already composed of recycled elements, this logo is often accompanied by a percentage indicating just how much comes from recycled material. 
 
The EU flower

The EU’s floral Ecolabel is the official environmental logo of the European Union and indicates that a product has limited detrimental effect on the environment. Used on non-edible goods like detergent, crockery and paints, the EU flower offers a guarantee that the environmental impact of the entire life cycle of the product has been taken into account and offers an assurance of the product’s efficacy.
  
Preserving the ozone
 
This logo indicates that an aerosol or similar product contains no ozone-damaging chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, the manufacture of which is being phased out under the Montreal Protocol.  
  
“Preserves the environment” or “environmentally friendly”
 
Pure marketing ploys, claims such as these are neither regulated nor backed up by any official requirements.
  
 “Tidy Man”
 
This pictogram is merely a gentle reminder to consumers to deposit their refuse in a bin rather than carelessly toss it in the street.
 
 
The triple-arrow triangle and Bisphenol A
 
Bisphenol A, an environmental estrogen used in some plastics, is suspected of posing a host of health problems, particularly to pregnant women or bottle-fed babies. Plastic products marked with the triangular triple arrow surrounding a number 7 or a 3 may contain polycarbonates made from Bisphenol A.
 
 
Does a “bio” or “organic” wine mean 100 percent natural?
 
There is no official label for “bio”, or organic, wine. The “AB” (agriculture biologique) logo in France simply means that the grapes were cultivated according to organic farming principles but does not prohibit the use of chemical substances in later processing.
 
 
The “sustainable cleaning” T-shirt 
 
This symbol, which today appears on many detergent packages, indicates that the manufacturer adheres to the Charter on Durable Cleaning, created by Europe’s International Association of Soap, Detergents and Maintenance Products. "This is a typical example of eco-marketing, a charter created by manufacturers that is not very limiting and exists mainly to inform consumers on how to use the product," says Jessica Piersanti, of MesCoursesPourLaPlanete.com. There are no official regulations for detergents that offer real guarantees regulated by independent bodies such as the EU Ecolabel. 

 

Date created : 2009-12-05

  • FRANCE

    Greenpeace activists invade National Assembly debate on Copenhagen

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