Plastic Straws That Quickly Biodegrade in the Ocean? Not Quite, Scientists Say

Imagine you’re walking along a beach sipping a cool lemonade. When you finish, there’s no trash can in sight, so you leave your plastic cup and straw on the shore, assured that if washed away they’ll quickly disappear.

That’s the image touted by a growing number of companies using Nodax—a plant-based plastic—to make straws, bottles and bags that they claim can biodegrade in oceans within a few months.

Nodax’s owner, Danimer Scientific Inc., counts Nestlé SA and Bacardi Ltd. among its customers and PepsiCo Inc. as an investor.

Nodax breaks down far more quickly than fossil-fuel plastics, which can last for hundreds of years. But many claims about Nodax are exaggerated and misleading, according to several experts on biodegradable plastics. They say more testing and stricter regulations are needed, and warn that marketing products as marine biodegradable could encourage littering. Biodegradable straws, bottles and bags can persist in the ocean for several years, they say.

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