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Shopper calls out Scotch-Brite for greenwashing after latest packaging change: 'Both claim that the packaging is recyclable'

"Doesn't the slash through the recycling logo mean it can't be recycled?"

"Doesn't the slash through the recycling logo mean it can't be recycled?"

Even companies trying to sell green products frequently fall down at the finish line with packaging that isn't eco-friendly. 

This might be an oversight or deliberately misleading. The difference isn't always clear, but when a company scraps recyclable packaging after releasing a product, you have to wonder.

What happened?

A frustrated Redditor posted in r/mildlyinfuriating comparing old and new packages of Scotch-Brite "Greener Clean" sponges. "Environmentally friendly, [recycled] sponges' new packaging," they explained, attaching two side-by-side photos.

"What a happy story!"
Photo Credit: Reddit

The first photo shows the fronts of the packages, each holding six sponges. While the left package is a thin cardboard box and the right is a plastic sleeve, the identical branding on each package shows that these are the same product.

The second photo shows the backs of the packages. The cardboard package is labeled "paper box" and is recyclable. The other bag is labeled "plastic wrap," and there's a bar through the recycling logo.

"Both claim that the packaging is recyclable," said one confused commenter.

Others quickly corrected them. "Doesn't the slash through the recycling logo mean it can't be recycled?" said another user.

Why does it matter if Scotch-Brite changed its packaging?

When people buy products made from recycled materials, they're often paying extra for the promise that their purchase won't harm the environment. That promise is worthless if the package it comes in is doing damage, such as shedding microplastics.

Polluting packaging on "green" products could be considered a form of greenwashing: claiming a product is better for the environment than it really is to make sales. Greenwashing costs consumers money and takes away their ability to make informed decisions about their purchases.

The Cool Down was able to confirm with Scotch-Brite that the company changed its packaging because the paper-based option "did not meet expectations," according to a spokesperson, who said the company would "continue to explore new packaging designs" and pointed out that rest of its Greener Clean product line does ship in recyclable packaging.

What is Scotch-Brite doing that's actually environmentally friendly?

"3M is always pursuing more sustainable and innovative materials for packaging that also give consumers a better view of the product," the spokesperson said. "Performance of those materials and secure shipping of our products is critical."

If the company returned to the paper-based packaging, it would actually be doing an admirable job with its Greener Clean sponges. According to the company's site, these sponges are made from recycled and plant-based materials, putting them far ahead of a standard plastic dish sponge. 

What can I do to be more eco-conscious when washing my dishes?

An even better, biodegradable alternative would be to scrub dishes with a loofah or a plant-based sponge. ZeroWasteStore.com even sells a two-pack of wood-pulp-based sponges for just over $5 that can be cleaned in the dishwasher and thus reused for six months apiece. 

On top of upping your sponge game, you can incorporate more zero-waste dish hacks, like using a soap dish that dries out the soap bar between uses.

The best move, however, is to get an energy-efficient dishwasher. It uses less water than washing by hand and saves you time — even more so if you buy a dishwasher-safe sponge. 

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