|From: Jon Koplik||1/23/2021 2:08:32 PM|
|Oops / WSJ -- Maersk Ship Loses 750 Containers Overboard in Pacific Ocean ...........................|
Jan. 21, 2021
Maersk Ship Loses 750 Containers Overboard in Pacific Ocean
Rough seas during a trip from China to Los Angeles caused the loss, the latest in a series of weather-related accidents at sea affecting millions of dollars in cargo
By Costas Paris
A cargo ship operated by A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S lost several hundred containers in the Pacific Ocean while sailing through heavy seas from China to Los Angeles, the latest in a spate of incidents in which boxes carrying millions of dollars’ worth of goods have gone overboard.
The company said the Maersk Essen, which has capacity for more than 13,000 containers, lost an estimated 750 of them on January 16 about halfway through its trans-Pacific sailing from China’s Port of Xiamen.
“All crew members are safe and a detailed cargo assessment is ongoing while the vessel continues on her journey,” Maersk said in a statement on Thursday. “The U.S. Coast Guard, flag state and relevant authorities have been notified. We view this as a very serious situation which will be investigated promptly and thoroughly.” A.P. Moller-Maersk is based in Copenhagen and the ship carries a Danish flag.
Several container ships have lost large numbers of boxes overboard in recent months in a spurt of accidents that maritime industry officials say had been declining.
The One Apus container vessel, operated by Singapore-based Ocean Network Express, lost around 2,000 boxes in November when it hit a storm off Hawaii on its way to Long Beach, Calif., from Yantian, China. The ship eventually sailed to Kobe, Japan, with hundreds of tipped-over containers sitting precariously onboard and remains there for repairs and an investigation into the cause of the incident.
People involved in the investigations said insurance claims from the One Apus could reach more than $220 million.
Losing boxes in harsh weather is relatively rare, but incidents this winter have been on the rise, especially in the Pacific.
Earlier this month, 76 containers fell off a vessel operated by Israel’s ZIM Integrated Shipping Services Ltd. en route from South Korea to North America. On Dec. 31, a boxship managed by Taiwan’s Evergreen Marine Corp. Ltd. lost around 40 containers off the coast of Japan while heading across the Pacific.
Engineers involved in the probes say they are looking into typical causes like failures in lashing systems that hold containers together. But as ships become bigger and containers are stacked high as multistory buildings, a vessel’s stability may come under greater pressure from pitching and rolling.
“It’s called parametric rolling and can happen when waves don’t hit the bow head-on, but at an angle. The ship goes into a rolling motion in sync with the waves which, combined with the ship’s normal pitching as it steams ahead, can displace cargo,” said Fotis Pagoulatos, an Athens-based naval architect.
Maritime officials say ship operators are looking at installing sensors that could issue warnings on sea conditions to avoid parametric rolling.
“The higher you stack the boxes on deck, the larger the forces they are subjected to when the vessel moves in waves, and this could be a contributing factor, especially as the recent demand boom has meant filling all ships to the brim,” said Lars Jensen, chief executive of Denmark-based SeaIntelligence Consulting.
Yiannis Sgouras, a veteran Greek captain, said the threat can come without warning, even when waves aren’t very high. “If you don’t catch it early on and change course, the ship can roll from side to side as it steams forward and things fall over,” he said.
Maritime insurance executives said roughly 3,000 containers have been lost at sea over the past two months.
The World Shipping Council, a Washington-based trade body representing liner companies, said in a report last July that between 2008 and 2019 on average 1,382 containers were lost at sea each year.
Write to Costas Paris at email@example.com
Copyright © 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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|From: Jon Koplik||1/24/2021 12:47:14 PM|
|WSJ obituary on Peter Huber, lawyer and author, provoked debate on medicine and the environment |
Jan. 20, 2021
Peter Huber Provoked Debate on Medicine and the Environment
Harvard-trained lawyer and author, who has died at age 68, taught thermodynamics at MIT before diving into public policy
By James R. Hagerty
By age 23, Peter W. Huber had a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and was teaching thermodynamics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. To keep his mind sufficiently occupied, he enrolled at Harvard Law School and shuttled by moped between teaching classes at MIT and taking them at Harvard.
He juggled those tasks well enough to graduate summa cum laude from Harvard in 1982, at the top of his class, and had clerkships with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, then an appeals court judge, and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
Armed to the teeth with credentials, he then practiced law and wrote provocative books and essays that made him an influential voice in debates over medicine, product-liability lawsuits, telecommunications, energy and the environment. Though he recognized the need for regulation, he hated the idea that misguided rules or bureaucracy would delay the benefits of new technology.
Some reviewers accused him of oversimplifying, exaggerating or failing to back up his assertions with citations to scientific studies.
In a note to a friend, he gave his response: “My job is to be sufficiently entertaining and outrageous to get people to spend a bit of time thinking about serious issues. And while I assert what I believe (at that particular moment) with outrageous certainty, you will also find if you read far enough that I always concede down the road that I quite see the other side of the argument.”
Mr. Huber died Jan. 8 of frontotemporal dementia. He was 68 years old.
He found time to write more than a dozen books, partly because he got up as early as 3 a.m. It also helped, he noted, that “I can type really fast.”
Peter William Huber was born Nov. 3, 1952, in Toronto and grew up in Geneva. His father, born in the Netherlands, was an administrator at the World Health Organization. His Canadian-born mother was a primary schoolteacher.
At age 17, he began his studies at MIT, where some of his research involved the safety of cooling systems in nuclear reactors. His work in that area made him wonder about the ability of the U.S. legal system to “deal effectively with technological problems,” Ain Sonin, one of his mentors at MIT, said in 1992.
By the early 1990s, Mr. Huber was “the academic superstar of the legal-reform movement,” The Wall Street Journal reported in a Page 1 story. He was a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, and a founding partner of the law firm now known as Kellogg Hansen.
A 1991 book by Mr. Huber, “Galileo’s Revenge: Junk Science in the Courtroom,” exposed abuses in product-liability lawsuits and made a case for stricter limits on who can qualify as an expert witness. In a case involving the drug Bendectin, a federal appeals-court judge, Alex Kozinski, quoted Mr. Huber to back a decision excluding testimony based on evidence not verified by a scientific consensus.
In a 1999 book, “Hard Green: Saving the Environment From the Environmentalists,” Mr. Huber backed traditional nature-conservation policies but argued that regulation had gone too far in creating rules to control risks based on “long chains of conjecture and projection, most of them disconnected from verifiable economic theory or historical experience.”
He favored drawing the line on regulation “where the thick smoke and raw sewage give way to ephemeral wisps and molecular traces.”
“The Bottomless Well,” a 2005 book by Mr. Huber and Mark P. Mills, affirmed that the world will never run out of energy and won an endorsement from Bill Gates. Energy supply depends on “how good we are at finding and extracting it,” Messrs. Huber and Mills wrote. “What is scarce is not raw energy but the drive and the logic that is able to locate, purify and channel it to our own ends.”
Mr. Huber turned his restless intellect to personalized medicine and experimental treatments based on genetic data for a 2013 book, “The Cure in the Code.” He feared that cumbersome regulation was blocking progress in attacking disease at the molecular level. His book advocates “policies that allow biochemists, doctors and patients enough flexibility to confront and collaborate to master the complexities of biochemical reality.”
Mr. Huber’s survivors include his wife, Andrea Huber, and their three children, along with a partner, Sarah Pletcher, their daughter and her son.
Despite his enthusiasm for the latest medical techniques, Mr. Huber expressed no interest in experimental treatments after being diagnosed in 2017 with frontotemporal dementia, Dr. Pletcher wrote in an email. “It was as if, like so many other times in his intellectual experience, he could see the whole chessboard with this new opponent and recognized that there weren’t any moves left.”
Write to James R. Hagerty at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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|From: Jon Koplik||1/29/2021 4:59:45 AM|
| WSJ -- Pizza Hut Launches ‘Detroit-Style’ Pizza, and America Says ‘Huh?’ |
Jan. 28, 2021
Pizza Hut Launches ‘Detroit-Style’ Pizza, and America Says ‘Huh?’
Michigan is home to the country’s biggest pizza chains, except for the one that launched the square pie with a diagram for novices
By Mike Colias and Annie Gasparro
in Detroit and in Chicago
This week, Pizza Hut launched its new Detroit-style pizza.
There’s just one problem: A lot of people have no clue what that is.
“Detroit style? I’ve never heard of it,” said Mike Zurek, 70, who has lived in Chicago nearly all his life. For him, there is only one deep-dish pizza: Chicago style. “But every place has its way of making it unique.”
Goes with Faygo
Even some Detroiters are a bit puzzled. Karen Gunderson stopped by a Pizza Hut in suburban Detroit this week to pick up a stuffed-crust pie. She had seen on the news that the pizza-making chain was rolling out a Detroit-style version but wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.
“I’m not really familiar with Detroit style,” said Ms. Gunderson, 72, who grew up in the area and has lived there most of her life. She is open to trying Pizza Hut’s newest creation, and hopes it’s as good as its signature stuffed crust.
Despite the fuzziness around the Detroit-style concept, Pizza Hut’s bet is the latest sign that the Motor City’s contribution to the Italian flatbread staple is having its moment.
Pizza Hut’s Detroit-style pizza. Photo: Pizza Hut
The key attributes have endured since the pie’s creation just after World War II: A square or rectangular pan pizza with Wisconsin brick cheese spread to the rim, giving the edges of the crust a slightly charred, caramelized taste, but leaving it light and airy in the middle. Tomato sauce is dolloped on top, rather than beneath the cheese.
The style is credited to immigrant Gus Guerra and his wife, Anna, who took a square, steel tray used on automotive assembly lines to create a deep-dish pizza at his east-side bar, Buddy’s Rendezvous, in 1946. That evolved into Buddy’s Pizza, which today operates 19 restaurants in Michigan. Mr. Guerra eventually sold the original Buddy’s and bought the Cloverleaf Bar & Restaurant, which remains another Detroit-style staple with multiple locations in Michigan.
The original kitchen staff at Buddy’s with a Detroit-style pizza. Photo: Buddy's
Burton Heiss, chief executive of Buddy’s, wasn’t surprised by Pizza Hut’s move into Detroit style. But he still sees room for his chain to expand outside Michigan, where he acknowledges the square pie is a curiosity.
“I talk to people all the time who have no idea what it is,” Mr. Heiss says.
Detroit-style pizza enthusiasts have tried to wedge their way into the long-running feud between New York and Chicago over whose pie reigns supreme. Debates among advocates of New York’s thin-crust, floppy, foldable triangles and Chicago’s rich, sweet deep-dish pies get heated—comedian Jon Stewart in a famous 3-minute rant once called Chicago’s version “tomato soup in a bread bowl.”
In trendy foodie neighborhoods from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, Detroit-style pizzerias have popped up in recent years. Jet’s Pizza, a Detroit-style pizza chain based in Michigan, now counts New York, Austin, Texas, and Phoenix among its locations.
The rise of this Motor City-forged doughy creation has coincided with the emergence of a bustling food scene in downtown Detroit, and the city’s budding reputation as a scrappy symbol of urban revival, exported by brands such as watchmaker Shinola.
Pizza Hut was started in 1958 in Wichita, Kan. Fast production and low prices helped it rapidly grow.
As competition for pizza delivery increased in the 1970s, it sought to differentiate itself with the debut of its Original Pan Pizza, a top seller for roughly 40 years. The pizza is round and the crust can be stuffed with cheese.
“The Detroit-style trend is something we’ve seen rise across the country,” said Pizza Hut’s Chief Brand Officer David Graves. “We get that some may not be as familiar with this style of pizza yet.” That’s why the company features a diagram of the pizza on the box, explaining that the cheese goes all the way to the edges and adding this tip: “go for the corner pieces.”
Pizza Hut’s Detroit-style pizza comes in a box describing what's inside. Photo: Susan Selasky/Detroit Free Press
Mr. Graves said he thinks Detroit style can stand up against Chicago and New York pizza. “Those pizzas may be more well-known, but Detroit style can be the same. Everyone just needs a chance to try it.”
The chain said it spent over a year trying eight versions of tomato sauce and more than 500 recipes in all, testing several in Midwestern stores.
Michigan is home to two of the nation’s three biggest pizza chains by sales: Domino’s Pizza Inc., based in Ann Arbor, and Detroit-based Little Caesar Enterprises Inc., according to trade publication Pizza Today.
Domino’s has yet to make a Detroit-style pizza. “While our Pan Pizza also takes the sauce and cheese all the way to the edge, it’s round and not square,” a spokesman said. “So we don’t consider ours to be Detroit style, nor do we call it that. We just call it delicious.”
Little Caesars Detroit-style Deep! Deep! Dish Pizza. Photo: Little Caesars
Little Caesars Pizza, whose original pizzas are round pies, has been selling a Detroit-style pie since 2013, when it came out with what it calls the Deep! Deep! Dish. “It’s been a big success,” a spokeswoman said. “As a Detroit company though-and-through, we are full of hometown pride.”
Since 1946, Buddy’s has been serving Detroit-style pizza at its original location in Detroit.
The ‘Motown Museum’ pizza at Buddy’s in Detroit. Photo: Marvin Shaouni for The Wall Street Journal
Ian Thibodeau, a Detroit-area native who works in public relations at Ford Motor Co. and once covered the city’s restaurant scene as a journalist, didn’t realize Detroit-style pizza was a thing until he went to college at University of Detroit Mercy, and out-of-town students sought out local pies.
“I grew up not realizing it was special,” said Mr. Thibodeau, 29. “People from other states were crazy for Buddy’s and I was like, ‘It’s just square pizza.’ ” A professor later clued him in on the intricacies with a visit to the original Cloverleaf.
The buzz on social media around Pizza Hut’s Detroit-style rollout was a mix of jokes, curiosity and guarded enthusiasm. “Shaped like a car?” one person quipped.
“I still don’t know exactly what Detroit Pizza is?” tweeted Ken Kal, the local radio voice of the Red Wings hockey team and a native Detroiter. Others on the thread figured he was joking, but he doubled down. “Seriously, I heard of Detroit pizza but don’t know what it is.”
A few years ago, New Yorker Jen McKenzie stood in line for two hours to eat at Emmy Squared, a Detroit-style pizza place that opened in 2016 in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. She loved the crispy, cheesy edges of the square slabs, which reminded her of a Sicilian style that many New Yorkers call “grandma pie.”
“Has it overtaken a New York grandma-style pizza for me? No,” said Ms. McKenzie, 43. “But it’s a joy.”
Emmy Squared sells square pizza in Brooklyn, N.Y.
A pizza being prepared at Emmy Squared in June, 2016. Photo: Ryan C. Jones for The Wall Street Journal
Michigan native Briana Reamer has lived in Chicago for nearly a decade and describes herself as a Chicago deep-dish loyalist. She prefers a pizza with cheese so thick and stretchy she can raise the slice two feet above her head without it breaking.
“I know about Detroit style,” said Ms. Reamer, 40, a research dietitian. “But I don’t really understand it. It seems like they’re trying to make a deep-dish, but then cut it into tiny pieces.”
Chris Baker, a 33-year-old writer at an ad agency, was smitten with the light, airy crust at Emmy Squared in Brooklyn. But he says he didn’t even realize it was “Detroit Style” until after several visits.
“Now that I think about, it might have said ‘Detroit’ on the menu,” he said. “But it wasn’t Chicago or New York, so I just kinda glossed over it.”
Write to Mike Colias at Mike.Colias@wsj.com and Annie Gasparro at email@example.com
© 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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|To: Jon Koplik who wrote (54)||1/29/2021 11:14:20 AM|
|I guess you can call that pizza, but there's nothing like a Jersey pizza. That looks more like an odd shaped loaf of bread with sprinkles on top.|
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|From: Jon Koplik||2/3/2021 11:41:05 AM|
|WSJ -- For One GameStop Trader, Wild Ride Was Almost as Good as the Enormous Payoff .................|
Feb. 3, 2021
For One GameStop Trader, the Wild Ride Was Almost as Good as the Enormous Payoff
A small-time trader turns $500 into more than $200,000
Anubhav Guha was initially skeptical of the GameStop exuberance, but the rowdy community on Reddit’s WallStreetBets forum won him over.
By Gregory Zuckerman
Anubhav Guha started day trading a few thousand dollars in March but managed to lose half of his money despite the stock market’s epic rally last year. He made that up and far, far more betting on GameStop Corp.
Mr. Guha turned $500 into $203,411 in less than three weeks with an options trade on the mall retailer.
The rally and now collapse of GameStop was a dramatic clash of small-time traders against hedge funds, but for Mr. Guha it was more of a lottery ticket, though it had more ups and downs than a typical Powerball drawing.
The 24-year-old is a graduate student in mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He pinches pennies by eating the same simple meal for lunch and dinner seven days a week to help get by on his $36,000-a-year income.
With the fall semester over and not much to do in January, Mr. Guha began spending more time on Reddit’s WallStreetBets forum. He was initially skeptical of the GameStop exuberance, but the rowdy community soon won him over. “It was pretty enticing,” he said.
His first day-trading experience hadn’t gone well. He began trading stocks in March, and by January his $4,000 investment was down to $2,000. On Jan. 8, he spent $500 betting on the unlikely event that GameStop shares, then trading under $20, would hit $60 in a month.
They did that and far more. He sold last Wednesday after friends and others helped persuade him to cash out, scoring a gain of $202,911, or 40,582%, according to a statement he shared with The Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Guha is appreciative of his windfall, most of which he will use to live in Boston during his graduate studies. But part of him regrets cashing out.
He already misses the community he had been a part of, if only briefly. “It felt like I was part of something bigger,” he said.
Such has been the allure for GameStop fans. “I’m part of this movement for more than just financial reasons,” said Harsh Bhatt, a 24-year-old software engineer for NCR Corp. in Atlanta. “I wasn’t old enough to remember Occupy Wall Street, but I’ve read enough about it to see that there are some similarities. I can’t remember the last time collective action on a scale like this actually made a financial difference in the lives of so many people.”
Until recently, Mr. Guha didn’t spend time thinking about stocks, though money was on his mind. Mr. Guha grew up in an upper-middle-class household in New York’s Westchester County. But he is on his own now and feels compelled to take unusual steps to save money. Every Sunday for the past three years, he has purchased up to 7 pounds of chicken thighs and cooks them with rice and pasta. It is enough to feed himself all week long, both lunch and dinner, though he sometimes adds frozen vegetables.
“I really dislike the idea of spending a lot on food,” he said.
As a freshman at MIT, Mr. Guha received a piece of bitcoin from the school’s cryptocurrency club as part of an initiative to popularize digital currencies. Early last year, he sold his bitcoin, which had climbed to $4,000, and in March put it all in stock options. Mr. Guha’s timing was great -- the market was about to rebound sharply from its pandemic low -- but his picks were poor, so his portfolio had dropped to $2,000 by the end of the year.
He took some of what was left and, convinced by members of the forum, bet on GameStop. “I treated it as money I was willing to lose,” Mr. Guha said. “It was a fun hobby.”
Within days, the Reddit board lighted up with news that Ryan Cohen, the founder of the Chewy pet-supply site, had gained a seat on GameStop’s board of directors, along with two of his allies. Ten days after Mr. Guha’s trade, GameStop was close to $40 and his position was worth $15,000. He sold the option but quickly bought it back. Then he did it again.
Mr. Guha realized his trade, at the new price levels, had been transformed. “It went from an intelligent decision to gambling,” he said.
Still, like others on WallStreetBets, Mr. Guha wasn’t selling. By Jan. 22, GameStop was at $65 and Mr. Guha’s position was worth nearly $80,000. He saw himself as part of an effort to claim power from Wall Street elites.
“You feel the excitement, the buzz of people on the same ride,” he said. “It is kind of silly, but there’s a big sentiment among those on WallStreetBets that this is a movement, a romanticization of the idea that many people responsible for the 2008 crash didn’t pay for it, and we’re taking back the power.”
Soon, Mr. Guha could barely focus on anything else. While the market was open, he checked his Robinhood account a few times an hour.
“All your mental energy is devoted to it. You know your money is going up or down a lot,” he said. “It is stressful.”
Playing tennis a couple of weeks ago, Mr. Guha looked at the stock after each point. Friends teased him, asking if he was checking tennis rules. That is when he told them about his big trade.
“They definitely thought I was crazy,” he said, “but they were also a little impressed.”
By last week, the friends had turned concerned. Mr. Guha’s trade was approaching a level they knew would be important to Mr. Guha’s future.
“You really need to sell,” a friend said.
He wouldn’t. Some on Wall Street Bets were predicting GameStop would hit $1,000, even $5,000. Hold tight and don’t sell, they urged. We’re in this together.
Finally, his friends staged what Mr. Guha jokingly calls a “mini intervention.” One asked if he would invest in GameStop at the sky-high levels if he had fresh money -- if not, he should exit the trade. The argument won him over.
On Wednesday, he sold his position, just before the shares hit their all-time high. The stock is down nearly 75% since the peak.
Only then did he tell his parents, who hadn’t heard of the frenzied trading in GameStop. His father’s first reaction: “Have you been insider trading?” Mr. Guha assured him that he hadn’t.
His mother was more nonplussed about the gains -- until she heard a segment about the GameStop craze on NPR a couple of days later. That got her excited.
“Don’t be impressed,” he told her. “I lucked into this.”
His adventure over, Mr. Guha is thrilled with his gains and how they will jump-start his life. He will need to pay high short-term capital-gains taxes on the profit and will use most of the remaining money for living and other expenses during his studies.
“I have to put my attention on my research and grad school,” he said. “But I might put a few thousand dollars back in; a part of me misses it. It was a wild, wild ride.”
Copyright © 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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|From: Jon Koplik||2/24/2021 11:47:34 PM|
|A rogue sheep found wandering in rural Victoria has been shorn of his heavily overgrown 35kg fleece. Nicknamed Baarack by his rescuers, the merino ram was taken to Edgar's Mission farm sanctuary, where the fleece was removed to save his life. 'He was in a bit of a bad way,' Kyle Behrend of the sanctuary said. 'He was underweight and, due to all of the wool around his face, he could barely see'|
short video :
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|To: Jon Koplik who wrote (4)||3/21/2021 1:04:41 AM|
|From: Jon Koplik|
|WSJ -- Plastic Straws That Quickly Biodegrade in the Ocean? Not Quite ............................|
March 20, 2021
Plastic Straws That Quickly Biodegrade in the Ocean? Not Quite, Scientists Say
Companies are touting straws and bottles made from a plant-based plastic, but researchers say some claims are overstated
By Saabira Chaudhuri
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.
“The claims are what I would call sensationalized,” Jason Locklin, a University of Georgia professor, said of Danimer’s Nodax marketing. Mr. Locklin directs the university’s New Materials Institute and co-authored a study cited by Danimer as validating its material.
Consumers are increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of single-use plastics, while regulators are threatening and implementing bans. More companies are promising to make eco-friendly containers, a shift Danimer says is a big tailwind. Plastic in the oceans is a particularly emotive issue for some, dismayed by images circulated by conservation organizations showing bleeding turtles, dead fish and tangled seabirds.
Companies since the 1970s have tried with little success to develop plastics that naturally disappear in the environment. While plastics made from materials like corn can biodegrade in compost facilities under specific heat and moisture conditions, plastic that quickly breaks down in nature has proved elusive.
Until now, Danimer says. Its chief executive, Steven Croskrey, has described Nodax as “the holy grail of plastic,” highlighting that the material has been certified by TUV Austria -- a leading international certification body whose logo is found on items like compostable food waste bags -- as able to biodegrade in seawater. Danimer’s share price has more than doubled since it went public through a deal with a so-called blank-check company in late December.
Nodax is the brand name of a resin that belongs to a family of plastics known as PHAs. It is made by feeding canola oil to bacteria, from which carbon is extracted and turned into plastic. Unlike conventional plastics, Nodax is consumed by microorganisms when thrown away, Danimer says.
Mr. Locklin’s study -- described in marketing material by Danimer and its customers as verifying Nodax as “a truly biodegradable alternative to petrochemical plastics” -- showed that Nodax in powdered form breaks down quickly, but that the rate is much more variable when tested as a film, the form used to make bags, straws and bottles.
Making broad claims about Nodax’s biodegradability “is not accurate,” said Mr. Locklin, adding: “I think that’s greenwashing.”
Danimer says its claims are factual. “The material truly is biodegradable so we’re not greenwashing,” said its chief technology officer, Phil Van Trump. “The only thing that will potentially change is how long it takes to biodegrade.”
Rum giant Bacardi is working with Danimer to develop Nodax plastic spirits bottles by 2023. Its marketing materials call Nodax a “plant-based wonder material” and say the upcoming bottles will “disappear” in 18 months.
Bacardi says the claim is based on internal tests and a separate certification Danimer has received from TUV on a lab test showing that a sheet of the raw material used to make the bottle will disintegrate by 90% in seawater within 12 weeks. Extrapolating from this, Bacardi and Danimer say a Nodax spirits bottle would break down within 18 months in the ocean.
Variations in temperature and microorganisms in the ocean make it very difficult to promise a bottle made from Nodax will biodegrade in 18 months, according to Ramani Narayan, a professor at Michigan State University who has been researching biodegradable plastics for over 30 years.
The marine biodegradability test used to gain certification from TUV is conducted in a lab using seawater at a temperature of 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit). But the average ocean temperature is 4 degrees Celsius (39.2 Fahrenheit), which means items could degrade more slowly in real life, Mr. Narayan said. He compares it to bread, which gets moldy less quickly inside the fridge.
At some ocean temperatures, Nodax straws could take between five and 10 years to biodegrade, he said. Bags and bottles could take even longer.
Mr. Van Trump called that assessment a “worst-case scenario” and said even Danimer’s most conservative testing shows far quicker biodegradation. Rodolfo Nervi, Bacardi’s sustainability head, said he is confident the upcoming bottle will be 100% biodegradable in 18 months.
Bottled-water giant Nestlé is also developing a bottle made from Nodax, which it says will be recyclable as well as biodegradable. Some recyclers worry the containers could mix with regular plastic bottles in recycling streams, breaking down and causing contamination. Gerhard Niederreiter, head of Nestlé’s Institute of Packaging Sciences, says Nestlé will take an active role in educating consumers and developing collection, sorting and recycling plans.
Several companies are marketing ocean-friendly straws made from Nodax.
Columbia Packaging Group markets its Biolo line of Nodax straws, films and bags as “certified biodegradable,” displaying logos from TUV Austria for marine and soil biodegradability on its website.
TUV said it doesn’t certify products like bottles or straws as ocean biodegradable because it doesn’t want to encourage littering, nor does it allow companies to make such claims about finished products even when the raw materials have been certified.
Lab tests are done on sheets of plastic, while finished products come in different shapes and thicknesses or have dyes and labels, all of which could impact how they biodegrade in the real world, said Philippe Dewolfs, head of TUV’s bioplastics certification department.
Columbia Packaging says that TUV has certified the material used to make its products as being marine and soil biodegradable and it makes that clear to customers.
Straw maker Urthpact LLC on its website says its Nodax straws will degrade “anywhere on earth.” A promotional video says the items will biodegrade in three to six months in oceans, backyards and landfills. A company spokeswoman said Urthpact stands by its marketing.
Given the lack of widespread composting facilities that accept packaging waste, many products made from Nodax today are bound to end up in landfills.
Modern landfills are designed to prevent biodegradation since organic matter releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas, when it breaks down. Even if an item does biodegrade in landfills, experts say it’s hard to predict how long the process would take since landfills differ widely from one another -- plus that would be an undesirable outcome.
Nodax doesn’t have any certification indicating it biodegrades in landfills. However, Mr. Croskrey on an investor call in October said the product would be consumed by bacteria if it ended up in a landfill. Responding to questions from The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Van Trump said the claim by the Danimer chief wasn’t wholly accurate, saying Nodax products are unlikely to biodegrade in most modern landfills.
Few laws exist to address claims about biodegradability. California bans the sale of plastic products that use the terms “biodegradable” or “degradable,” saying such claims can be misleading. Last year the state passed a separate law barring products from using the term “marine degradable.”
Making claims about soil biodegradability -- as Bacardi and Columbia do -- is tricky, too, since products need to be fully buried in soil rather than simply littered to break down entirely, Mr. Narayan said.
“Everything biodegrades at some point,” including fossil-fuel plastics, he said. “The question is how soon.”
Write to Saabira Chaudhuri at firstname.lastname@example.org
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