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Danimer Scientific’s response to the article published in the Wall Street Journal on March 20, 2021 (“Plastic Straws That Quickly Biodegrade in the Ocean? Not Quite, Scientists Say”)

Apr 8, 2021 by Richard Ivey

We have reviewed the article and its questions about the potential for bioplastics. The science speaks for itself in verifying the biodegradability of PHA. PHA is inherently biodegradable and is naturally produced (and consumed) in nature by microorganisms.  Any claims of biodegradability we make are backed by international testing standards.  Study results published by the University of Georgia state that the anaerobic degradation of PHA is similar to that of cellulose powder, which means PHA will degrade at a similar rate as plant matter in a waste treatment facility. The study also demonstrates that in seawater, PHA begins to biodegrade over the course of six months, while polypropylene pellets remain intact and unchanged. These results show that PHA is a legitimate biodegradable alternative to traditional plastic. The article points out that variable environmental conditions can influence the amount of time it takes for our material to biodegrade.  We do not dispute this point, and we are very clear about this on our website.  Our goal has been and continues to be educating the public on the rigorous research, testing and certifications that this material has undergone before hitting store shelves.

Additionally, the following Letter to the Editor of the Wall Street Journal was sent by Dr. Jason Locklin, director of the New Materials Institute at the University of Georgia on April 8, 2021. We believe that this letter clearly states Dr. Locklin’s position on the claims of biodegradability made by Danimer Scientific.

“Ms. Walsh,

Good evening. 

I would be most appreciative if you and your colleagues at the Journal would consider publishing this letter in an upcoming edition. 

Thank you. 

_____

I write to clarify statements attributed to me in the article published on-line in The Wall Street Journal on March 20, 2021 (“Plastic Straws That Quickly Biodegrade in the Ocean?  Not Quite, Scientists Say”) and in the print edition on March 22, 2021 (“Claim of Ocean-Safe Plastic Seen as Inflated”).

In part of my lengthy interview with the Journal, I expressed opinions about the need for accuracy in marketing claims about polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) based products and how varying definitions of the term “biodegradable” may cause consumer confusion.

The article includes two quotations attributed to me.  While I don’t question that I said the quoted words, to the best of my memory, my statements were in reaction to broad marketing claims by converters or brands selling PHA-based products without proper context that biodegradation time is variable with environmental conditions.  To the best of my knowledge, I was not made aware during the interview, and I am not otherwise aware, of any such marketing claims made by Danimer Scientific, Inc. (producer of “Nodax,” a PHA copolymer) that are “sensationalized” or constitute “greenwashing” in my opinion.  

I strongly believe that context and precision are critical in the marketing of all biodegradable products, including PHA-based products.  I encourage all companies that manufacture these products to provide greater transparency around the data supporting their claims so that scientists, regulators, and consumers can better understand how the materials can best be used in addressing the plastics waste problem.

I hope this letter clarifies my statements in the Journal.

Jason Locklin, Ph.D

Director, UGA New Materials Institute

Jason Locklin, Ph.D.

Director, New Materials Institute

Distinguished Faculty Scholar, College of Engineering

Professor, Department of Chemistry

Professor of BioChemical Engineering

University of Georgia

Riverbend Research South

220 Riverbend Road

Rm 104 Athens, GA 30602″

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