The Link Between PLA Ban and Greenwashing: Unveiling the Complexities of Environmental Responsibility

Alfred Tang

Hatched by Alfred Tang

Nov 24, 2023

3 min read


The Link Between PLA Ban and Greenwashing: Unveiling the Complexities of Environmental Responsibility


In recent news, PLA (Polylactic Acid), a type of biodegradable plastic, has been restricted from use in eight major categories of venues. This ban has raised questions about the classification of PLA alongside traditional plastics, as well as its impact on recycling and the environment. Similarly, another recent development involves the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) commencing a greenwashing case against Vanguard Investments Australia for allegedly exposing investor funds to companies tied to fossil fuels. These seemingly unrelated incidents shed light on the complexities of environmental responsibility and the need for holistic approaches to sustainability.

Connecting the Dots:

1. PLA and Its Misclassification:

The ban on PLA usage in certain venues has resulted in its disposal becoming similar to that of traditional plastics, with PLA ending up in landfills instead of being recycled. This is because PLA has been categorized alongside conventional plastics, affecting its properties during the recycling process. However, PLA has distinct advantages over traditional plastics, particularly in terms of its source and biodegradability. Therefore, the ban raises questions about whether the responsibility for environmental friendliness lies solely with the plastic material itself.

2. Greenwashing and ESG Criteria:

ASIC's greenwashing case against Vanguard Investments Australia highlights the issue of misleading environmental claims made by companies. In this case, ASIC alleges that investor funds were exposed to companies involved in activities linked to oil and gas exploration, despite the investment firm's claims of adhering to certain environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria. This case emphasizes the importance of scrutinizing companies' claims and ensuring alignment between their stated values and their investment decisions.

Finding Common Ground:

While the PLA ban and the greenwashing case appear to be distinct issues, they share a common thread: the need for comprehensive and transparent approaches to environmental responsibility. Both cases demonstrate the importance of considering the entire lifecycle of products and investments, rather than solely focusing on surface-level claims or materials. Environmental responsibility should encompass not only the materials used but also the sourcing, manufacturing, usage, disposal, and impact on communities and ecosystems.

Actionable Advice:

1. Educate and Raise Awareness:

As consumers and investors, it is crucial to educate ourselves about the complexities of environmental responsibility. By staying informed and raising awareness about topics such as PLA and greenwashing, we can make more informed decisions and hold companies and institutions accountable for their claims and actions.

2. Demand Transparency and Accountability:

When choosing products or investment opportunities, demand transparency and accountability from companies. Look for certifications or third-party verifications that ensure adherence to sustainable practices. By supporting companies that prioritize environmental responsibility and hold themselves accountable, we can drive positive change and discourage greenwashing.

3. Advocate for Policy Changes:

To address the misclassification of PLA and prevent greenwashing, it is essential to advocate for policy changes that promote comprehensive approaches to sustainability. Engage with local and national policymakers to raise awareness about these issues and encourage the development of regulations that consider the entire lifecycle of products and investments.


The PLA ban and the greenwashing case against Vanguard Investments Australia serve as reminders that environmental responsibility is a multifaceted issue. It requires us to look beyond surface-level claims and materials, and instead focus on the entire lifecycle and impact of products and investments. By educating ourselves, demanding transparency, and advocating for policy changes, we can contribute to a more sustainable future and hold companies accountable for their environmental claims and practices.

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