The not-so-green truth about bamboo fabric
T-shirts, towels and other textiles derived from bamboo often carry green claims. But are they true? Not necessarily. Four clothing and textile companies were recently charged with making false claims related to bamboo by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
4 FALSE GREEN CLAIMS
The companies charged with making false product claims include Sami Designs, LLC (doing business as Jonäno), CSE, Inc. (d.b.a. Mad Mod), Pure Bamboo, LLC, and The M Group, Inc. (d.b.a. Bamboosa). While the former three companies have settled the FTC’s complaints, litigation continues against the latter. Here’s a list of the claims considered false:
“100% bamboo fiber” – All four companies were charged with deceptively advertising their products as made of “100% bamboo fiber.” Because bamboo fibers are chemically treated to create rayon, the FTC requires that the final bamboo-based fabric be advertised and labeled as rayon, a material manufactured from the cellulose of plants and trees. Last year, our in-house textile expert, Pat Slaven, testified on this topic in a presentation to the FTC, Bamboozled by Rayon.
“Antimicrobial” – Each company was also charged with falsely claiming its bamboo-based products retain the natural antimicrobial properties of bamboo. But the FTC says that manufacturing bamboo into rayon eliminates any such property, and considers the antimicrobial claim false.
“Environmentally friendly manufacturing” – Three of the companies, Jonäno, Mad Mod, and Pure Bamboo, were charged with falsely claiming their products are made using an environmentally friendly manufacturing process. In reality, toxic chemicals that release hazardous air pollutants are used in the manufacturing of rayon, according to the FTC.
“Biodegradable” – Both Pure Bamboo and Bamboosa were charged with falsely advertising their products as biodegradable, and claiming their products will break down in a reasonably short time after customary disposal. According to the FTC, neither of the typical ways textiles are disposed of—recycling or landfilling—results in quick biodegradation.
The three companies that settled have reportedly agreed not to claim any textile product is made of bamboo or bamboo fiber, manufactured using an environmentally friendly process, or antimicrobial, among other things, unless the claims are true, not misleading, and substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence. However, the proposed orders do allow the companies to describe their products as “rayon made from bamboo.”
FTC charges companies with bamboo-zling consumers 8/09
FTC consumer alert: Have you been bamboozled by bamboo fabrics? 8/09
Consumers Union's FTC testimony on green claims 6/09
FTC takes aim at deceptive green claims 2/09
Consumers Union's FTC presentation: Bamboozled by Rayon 7/08