Eco-Friendly "Paper Bottle" Turns Out To Be A Paper Sleeve With A Plastic Bottle Inside

Plastic, plastic everywhere. Image credit: gualtiero boffi/shutterstock.com

If you haven't heard of "greenwashing" before, it's the concept of corporations and businesses making their products or practices seem more environmentally "green" than they really are.

Notable examples include the Volkswagen "diesel dupe". In 2015, Volkswagen installed software in their diesel engines that could detect when they were being tested and adjust how they performed, effectively cheating emissions tests. When the cars weren't being tested, they would emit 40 times the US limit of toxic fumes. As a result, consumers thought they were buying a much more environmentally friendly car than they actually were.

That's the more sophisticated end of corporate trickery. On the other end is cosmetic brand Innisfree, which has come under fire this month over its eco-friendly "paper bottle". The bottle even comes with text on the front that reads "Hello, I'm a paper bottle", only it turns out it contains a second plastic bottle inside.

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According to the Korea Herald, a Facebook member posted in the group “No Plastic Shopping” that they felt betray "betrayed" when they discovered the plastic bottle inside, and filed a complaint of greenwashing against the firm. 

After plenty of criticism in South Korea, the firm clarified that the "Hello, I'm a paper bottle" label only referred to the paper bottle around the plastic bottle. 

"This product is called 'paper bottle' to make it easier to explain the role of paper labels wrapping outside of the bottle," a spokesperson for Innisfree told BBC News. "However we understand that the entire container can be seen as paper material because of the product name. We are deeply sorry for the confusion caused and will try to deliver more accurate information to you."

The company added that the inner bottle uses 51.8 percent less plastic than conventional packaging.

"Innisfree released a paper bottle edition of Green Tea Seed Serum by applying paper packaging on the container," according to Innisfree's website. "It joined the Less Plastic movement by reducing the use of plastic in the container by around 52% (compared to previous large size container of 160ml*) and using 10% recycled plastic in its cap and shoulder. Both the paper bottle and lighter plastic container can be sorted out and recycled after use."

Which is admittedly difficult to get across in four words.

Though the bottle does have recycling instructions on the packaging for both the plastic and paper bottle, not everyone was convinced by the explanation.

“Many of those who chose the given product were trying to reduce harmful impacts to the environment," the initial complainant told the Korea Herald. "I feel that [the company] took advantage of them.”

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