A series of adverts that claimed plastic grass is “eco-friendly” and can “purify” the air have today been branded as “misleading”, “unsubstantiated”, and guilty of making exaggerated environmental claims by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
The ASA, which has recently launched a crackdown on ‘greenwashing’ claims, upheld complaints against two Youtube videos and website claims made by brands operated by artificial lawns specialist Evergreens UK Ltd.
The ASA was asked to examine three adverts for Evergreens’ AIR range, which the company claimed was “eco-friendly” and “capable of reducing up to 70 per cent of harmful NOx”.
One advert specifically claimed that one square meter of AIR-treated grass is “comparable to the air-purifying effects of one mature tree”.
In response to the complaints, Evergreens said the AIR artificial grass had been treated with PURETi, a titanium dioxide (TiO2) containing, water-based photocatalytic surface treatment, which reacts with UV light, oxygen, and humidity to create cleaning agents that can convert pollutants such as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) into harmless mineral nitrates, water, and a small amount of residual carbon dioxide (CO2).
The company also provided a number of published and unpublished studies in support of the claim that AIR could reduce NOx in the air by up to 70 per cent.
But the ASA upheld the complaints on all counts. It ruled that “the claim ‘eco-friendly’ was absolute, and in the absence of further context or qualification, would be understood to mean AIR artificial grass was not harmful to the environment in any way, throughout the full life cycle of the product “.
Evergreens had said it had received an initial advertising draft of a full environmental impact assessment for the product and would update its accordingly once the full draft had been received. It also said it was exploring how to improve the efficiency of the transport of its products and pursuing UK-based recycling facilities.
But the ASA noted that the artificial grass was made from plastic and as such “even if it was transported efficiently and recycled at the end of its life cycle, the extraction of raw materials and subsequent processing of those materials in order to produce the artificial grass had a negative impact on the environment”.
The ASA welcomed assurances from Evergreens that it would amend its advertising to make more limited claims about specific aspects of the product. But it concluded that “at the time the ads appeared they had featured the claim ‘eco-friendly’, and because we had not seen evidence regarding the full life cycle of the product, we considered the claim ‘eco-friendly’ overstated the environmental benefit of the product and was therefore misleading”.
The watchdog also upheld complaints over whether the product was capable of reducing up to 70 per cent of harmful NOX and having a similar impact on air quality as a mature tree, concluding that “testing had been conducted on a small sample of artificial grass under laboratory.” conditions, and considered that the observed reduction in NOx was significantly below the 70 per cent reduction claimed in the ads”.
Evergreens UK was considering a request for comment at the time of going to press.
However, gardener and campaigner Charlotte Howard, who complained about the adverts, told The Guardian that she was delighted at the ruling. “It was total greenwashing and I am delighted that these claims can no longer be made,” she said. “I really hope that this will start to put an end to the greenwashing claims of artificial grass companies.”