The Federal Trade Commission's announcement coincided with testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives about enforcing laws against false claims of products being green.
"For the marketplace to thrive...companies must compete on the basis of legitimate advertising claims and consumers must be able to rely on those claims," James A. Kohm, associate director of enforcement for the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection told a congressional subcommittee.
In three complaints, the FTC contended that Kmart's American Fare paper plates, Tender Corp.'s Fresh Bath-brand moist wipes, and Dyna-E International's Lightload brand compressed dry towels cannot substantiate claims they are biodegradable. Kmart and Tender reached agreements with the FTC to settle their cases. Dyna-E is challenging the FTC's findings and has published lab tests on its web site in support of its claims.
Kmart said its marketing decision was based on information the company was given and, under certain circumstances, the plate is biodegradable.
"We relied on the vendor's documents to substantiate the claim and these plates are biodegradable in a backyard compost," a spokesman for Kmart parent Sears Holdings told Walletpop.
However, the FTC said biodegradability claims should be based on whether the items would, in a relatively short time, properly decompose into items normally found in the earth.