Avid recyclers like Steve Riker were suspicious when they read a plastic water bottle that claimed it was 100 percent biodegradable.
"Biodegradable means like you go out to your garden and you have compost to enrich your garden. How are you going to enrich the Earth with plastic?" Riker said.
California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris agreed and filed a lawsuit against two water companies, Aquamantra and Balance, and their bottle supplier ENSO Plastics, for illegally claiming bottles are biodegradable.
The lawsuit also seeks to have the products removed from the shelves.
"This is, essentially, as far as I'm concerned, about a company and folks profiting off of Californian's natural desire to make sure we protect our environment," Harris said.
ENSO Plastics said it stands behind its technology. In its marketing video, the company said with certain additives, the bottle biodegrades if placed in an environment with microbes and that it leaves behind "only natural soil and gasses."
Environmental groups said there's no such thing as a biodegradable plastic bottle. That's why there's a 2008 California law that essentially prohibits the use of that term on plastic bottles.
"The chemical additive is designed to help break the bottle down into smaller pieces. But the smaller pieces don't provide any environmental benefit," said Mark Murray of Californians Against Waste.
Balance Water has decided to change its labeling and reluctantly may change its bottle supplier despite a strong belief in ENSO's research.
"We were presented with some credible and strong evidence of biodegradation from Enso," said Martin Chalk, Balance's co-founder.
Aquamantra, based in Orange County, says independent tests concluded its bottles are biodegradable and would not make false claims because of its strong environmental philosophy.