State and local governments as well as federal agencies have passed laws and created programs to regulate and promote biobased products. These measures ensure product quality and expose “green washing.”
One focus has been appropriate labeling. Some companies label their products, especially food service ware, as “biodegradable” or “compostable” even when they are not. This inaccurate labeling poses a problem for composters because such products contaminate the compost and therefore reduce the efficiency of the process. Similarly, biobased plastics can destroy an entire batch of PET when they cannot be distinguished from conventional plastic bottles. In response to these problems, governments have passed laws that require truthful and distinct labeling of biobased products.
Another focus has been preferential purchasing of biobased products. Many communities that have banned polystyrene recommend purchasing biobased products in their stead.
Under AB 1972, food and beverage container and plastic bag manufacturers are allowed to label their products as “biodegradable,” “compostable,” or “degradable” only if they meet the commensurate ASTM testing standards.
AB 2071 stipulates that violators of AB 1972, the Truthful Environmental Advertising for Plastics Law, can be fined $500 for a first offense, $1,000 for a second offense, and $2,000 for the third and subsequent offenses.
Mandated by the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills, this program was established to promote the purchase and use of biobased products by the federal government. The new biobased label displays the amount of biobased content as determined by ASTM D6866 testing. This applies to the product and its packaging. Although created for the federal government, anyone can view the list of BioPreferred products.
In 2010, Ohio created a program to develop a list of preferred biobased products.The bill relies on the product standards and approved product lists established by the USDA BioPreferred purchasing program.