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LONDON – Global outdoor lifestyle brand Kathmandu has pulled an advertisement for its ‘biodegradable’ BioDown puffer jacket after a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The TV advert showed a time-lapse of the jacket on top of a pile of rubbish and breaking down over time. The complainant argued the advert was misleading because it gave the impression the jacket would, “biodegrade in a regular landfill environment.” However, the fine print at the bottom of the ad said the jacket could only biodegrade in a biologically active, anaerobic landfill environment.

The case highlights the growing receptiveness of the authorities to claims of greenwashing. It also shows that no apparel brand is above such accusations and this is not just an issue for the fast fashion space. Kathmandu is the largest Australasian retailer to achieve B Corp certification.

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“There are multiple shots of a conventional landfill, which represent the majority of landfills we have in Aotearoa. This would lead a consumer to believe that their jacket would, in fact, biodegrade in these conditions,” the complaint said.

The jacket requires a biologically active, anaerobic landfill to biodegrade. It was argued that this was not made clear enough in the TV advertisement.

The ASA chair accepted the complaint to be referred to the Complaints Board to decide whether advertising standards had been breached. However, Kathmandu settled the claim before it was heard.

Kathmandu said: “While we categorically disagree with the complaint and without any admission of liability or fault, Kathmandu wishes to settle the complaint. Kathmandu has removed the advertisement and undertakes that it will not use the advertisement again in New Zealand.”

Kathmandu supported its claims with results from scientific testing. The business said it tested the jacket using the ASTM D5511 method, which can determine the extent of biodegradation of plastic materials in an anaerobic environment. Kathmandu provides the test results on its website and suggests the test was conducted under landfill conditions. But WasteMINZ, the largest representative authority on waste management in New Zealand, said that this isn’t the case.

Carole Smith, from WasteMINZ’s Disposal to Land Sector Group steering committee, said the test would likely have been done under controlled, optimised conditions in a laboratory rather than in a landfill. The testing conditions may not reflect the reality facing most household waste in New Zealand. Waste tends to be thrown in a wheelie bin and end up in a landfill which, unlike the test, is an environment exposed to many variables and isn’t always optimal for biodegradation.

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