It seems I, and a lot of other New Zealanders, have been somewhat hoodwinked.
Now I'm usually pretty good at sniffing out potentially misleading and deceptive statements and breaches of the Fair Trading Act, often with the help of my morning long black. So imagine my 'outrage' when, just after reading takeaway coffee lids promoted as "compostable" can't actually be composted in New Zealand (we don't have the necessary commercial composting facilities), I looked down and saw that my takeaway coffee had a 'compostable' lid.
To rub salt into my wound, apparently the lids can't be recycled either, which means they go straight into landfill.
This not only offends my environmental conscience, but, if correct, is also likely to be a breach of the Fair Trading Act, which prohibits misleading and deceptive statements in relation to goods and more generally in trade. The fact the lids are capable of being composted somewhere in the world is unlikely to be a defence to an alleged breach of the FTA if they can't be composted in New Zealand, i.e. the market they were supplied.
My particular lid was made from a type of plastic called PLA (polylactide) marketed under the trademark INGEO (registered to US company Natureworks LLC).
A quick Google indicates that there are a wide range of products marketed in New Zealand, which make environmental and composting claims based on the use of PLA 'bioplastics'.
Any New Zealand organisation using INGEO, or other PLA, products might want to check their promotional claims, including those (in my coffee lid's case) actually made on the product itself, and seek appropriate advice.
Making misleading claims is bad enough, but making misleading claims regarding your environmental credentials is quite another.
Dunedin cafes buying so-called compostable coffee cups are being "misled", in what could be a breach of the Fair Trading Act. Dunedin City Council waste manager Catherine Irvine said polylactide (PLA) disposable coffee cup lids were being sold as compostable when there were no facilities in New Zealand capable of composting them. As a result, well-meaning cafes in Dunedin and across New Zealand were paying a premium for the lids in an attempt to "do the right thing" when they could not even be recycled, Ms Irvine said. A spokeswoman for the Commerce Commission said companies selling the lids could be breaching the Fair Trading Act if they were being sold as compostable or biodegradable when they could not be composted here.