Phone cases are durable, stylish, and long-lasting, but they’re not good for the environment if disposed of improperly. Hardened plastic and metal take a long time to break down, which is why companies started creating compostable phone cases. Contrary to popular belief, these eco-friendly alternatives are quite sturdy.
A compostable phone case is a type of phone case that can disintegrate into a compost environment without intoxicating it. These phone cases are environmentally friendly and can be recycled. They also come in various colors, prints, and sizes for you to choose from.
This article will expound more on what compostable phone cases are made of, what makes them compostable, how they decompose, and how they are manufactured. We will also cover their advantages and disadvantages to the producer, consumer, and the general environment.
What Are Compostable Phone Cases?
Compostable phone cases are made using biodegradable materials that can easily disintegrate into a compost environment without intoxicating it. The most famous compostable phone case is the Pela Cases, made from flax, an eco-friendly bi composite, and waste flax straws.
These straws used to be burnt by flax farmers because they got caught up in their equipment. They are very strong, which is why they come in handy in making durable phone cases.
Pela is a unique company because not only do they sell Compostable Phone Cases, but they make and sell the following other Eco-Friendly compostable products:
- Compostable AirPods Cases
- Compostable Smart Watch Bands
- Compostable Phone Grips
- Compostable Card Holders
- Compostable Zero Waste Screen Protectors
- Compostable Ethos Radiation Reduction Phone Case Liners
- Compostable Gift Cards
Compostable Phone Cases Made From Plant Materials
Some compostable phone cases are made from cornstarch and bamboo, though flax and wheat fibers remain the most popular option for their availability and affordability. Pela, as described above, uses waste flax straws.
The constant factor is that they are purely made from earth-grown natural plant materials products, which make these cases environment-friendly. They reduce pollution in the environment that’s already filled with excess greenhouse gasses. According to Pela’s research, compostable phone cases can decompose in as little as 6 to 24 months.
The microorganisms present in the soil will feed on the disintegrated particles like any other soil mineral. Plants also benefit from these nutrients for their healthy growth and provide humans with healthy food due to the nutrient-enriched soil they grow in. There are special composting conditions required for the case to break down in the soil completely. These include oxygen, light, and moisture, which help speed up the breakdown process.
Please see our other eco-friendly articles like “What is Sustainability on an Eco-Friendly Smartphone?” and “Why Use A Biodegradable Phone Case?”
The following YouTube video explains how the Pela phone cases are manufactured:
Eco-Friendly and Biodegradable Does Not Mean Compostable
Biodegradable does not mean compostable. There is a common misunderstanding that the terms biodegradable and compostable are interchangeable. Not all bio-based plastics will biodegrade.
According to Pela: “Compostable products must fully break down or “dissolve” within a year, and can only compost in a composting environment, not a landfill.”
The ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) defines biodegradable plastic as “a plastic in which all the organic carbon can be converted into biomass, water, carbon dioxide, and/or methane via the action of naturally occurring microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi, in timeframes consistent with the ambient conditions of the disposal method.”
Defining Bioplastics And Compostable Plastics
In the paper Compostable Plastics 101 an Overview Of Compostable Plastics
Sponsored By The California Organics Recycling Council, the word bioplastics can cause confusion because it holds two meanings. Bioplastics can refer to the following:
“Where the material comes from”: A plastic made from a biobased origin such as corn, sugar, or starch, as opposed to a fossil-based carbon source. Biobased plastics are also called “plant-derived” or products that are derived from “new carbon” or “organic carbon,” or renewable carbon.”
“Where the material goes after use”: A plastic that biodegrades in some time frame that is relevant, meaning it will decompose in closer to a year than 1,000 years, which is a normal rate for fossil fuel-based plastics.Compostable Plastics 101 By The California Organics Recycling Council
How Fast Do Compostable Materials Decompose?
How Fast compostable material decomposes depends on the process being used for composting. You have to be consistent with the process and turn the compost. In the lab, products certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) break down in under 12 weeks, or 84 days.
In an industrial composting facility, it is a business, so employees and machines may grind the materials, and using equipment such as tractors constantly turn the compost piles over and reach higher temperatures which make it faster than home composting.
You can do the same thing at home with a compost pile in your backyard with food waste, leaves, soil, or worms mixed in and a pitchfork, shovel, or a rotating composting bin. The time may vary, of course, but the material will eventually compost and decompose into the soil.
According to ASTM:
ASTM D6400 Specification for compostable plastics and or plastic films and solid plastic products specifies three criteria:
- Less than 10% of test material remains on a 2mm sieve
- Controlled compost conditions at thermophilic conditions (135°F / 58°C) as defined in ASTM D5338 & ISO 16929 test methods
- Time: 12 weeks or less (84 days)
- Mineralization / Inherent Biodegradation
- 90% Conversion to carbon dioxide, water & biomass via microbial assimilation
- ASTM D5338 – defines test method used
- Time: 180 days or less (the same rate as natural materials – leaves, paper, grass, and food scraps)
- No impacts on plant growth, using OECD Guide 208
- Regulated (heavy) metals less than 50% of EPA prescribed threshold
How To Determine if a Phone Case Is Compostable
When you want to buy a phone case, it is hard to know right away if it is compostable. These guidelines will help you determine this when you are shopping for one.
- The phone case website should be clear on what products were used to make the phone case. It should also state that the case has a 100% untreated and uncoated material that is sustainable and can compost fast. They should also indicate the absence of toxic adhesive and composites and be BPA, lead, cadmium, and phthalates-free.
- It should meet the ASTM international organization standards for compostability. ASTM tests compostable phone cases to check if they truly can be consumed by microorganisms and not harm them, if they can be physically broken down when composted, and if they don’t generally cause harm to the plants and soil. If the case doesn’t qualify for any of these, it has no right to be sold as a compostable phone case.
- The compostable phone case should also include the BPI logo on itself or the package when purchased. BPI stands for Biodegradable Products Institute, a body that tests and promotes compostable products. It ensures compostable products meet the ASTM D6400 standard and ensures the product is truly compostable.
- ASTM D6400 Standard – “This specification covers plastics and products made from plastics that are designed to be composted in municipal and industrial aerobic composting facilities. The properties in this specification are those required to determine if plastics and products made from plastics will compost satisfactorily, including biodegrading at a rate comparable to known compostable materials. The purpose of this specification is to establish standards for identifying products and materials that will compost satisfactorily in commercial and municipal composting facilities.”
We hope it is now obvious that only looking at your phone case is not enough to confirm that it is compostable. Therefore, it is important to ensure it has one of the qualifications listed above to avoid being scammed, disappointed, or polluting the environment.
Why Should You Use a Compostable Phone Case?
Most Smartphone cases are made from plastic, which is not biodegradable. People use them because they are readily available and sometimes come with the purchased phone. There’s a lot of skepticism regarding the longevity of a phone case made of compostable materials, but you’d be surprised by the results.
Here are some of the reasons why you should own a compostable phone case for your phone.
They Can Be Composted or Recycled
You do not have to dispose of your current compostable phone case or put it away with the junk in your garage. Instead, you can:
- Put it in your own Backyard Composting Pile
- Put it in your own Composting Bin on your Patio, Deck, or private space.
- You can start the composting process by putting materials indoors using a Kitchen Ceramic Composting Bin, which you can buy on Amazon or a local hardware store, gardening supplies store, or make yourself. You can possibly do this long-term, depending on storage space.
- Send or deliver to an industrial or commercial composting facility.
- If applicable, return it to the store you bought it from, though this depends on the instructions given on the retailer’s website.
- Some recommend that as you purchase another, you give the old one to the retailer for recycling. Some manufacturers even offer discounts when you return an old one for recycling.
Definition of Recycle:Definitions from Oxford Languages
-convert (waste) into reusable material.
“car hulks were recycled into new steel”
Similar: reuse, reprocess, convert into something, reclaim, recover, salvage, save
–return (material) to a previous stage in a cyclic process.
“the amino acids are recycled in the synthesis of other proteins”
“he reserves the right to recycle his own text”
They Are Easy To Dispose
You don’t always need to take it back for recycling. Disposing of the cover in your backyard is also an acceptable option. But it is important to understand that you do not just dispose of the phone case randomly.
You have to put it in compost and ensure the requirements it needs to decompose are readily available, including nitrogen, carbon, and water. These three components will initiate the decomposition process, which should be found in your compost bin.
These cases prevent the pollution that could have been caused if they were non-biodegradable phone cases. This process begins from the manufacturing stage. Less energy is required compared to when making a non-biodegradable plastic phone case, so generally, fewer fuels are used when processing these cases. Thus, there’s less pollution.
They Are Natural
Compostable phone cases are made of purely natural products from the environment. These include corn, soybeans, flax, and many other plants. These products grow back even after harvest. This use of these materials saves petroleum, a non-renewable energy source obtained by mining, and is the main component in the manufacture of plastic phone cases.
Other Advantages of Using Compostable Phone Cases
- The unique appearance combines plant fibers and natural dye to create a one-of-a-kind experience.
- It does not release harmful products when decomposing; it is broken down to carbon dioxide, water, and other inorganic compounds by the microorganisms in the soil.
- Terratek Flex materials improve their flexibility beyond traditional smartphone cases without polluting the environment with slow-degrading plastic.
- Since these cases are not made of metal or thick plastic, many compostable phone cases weigh significantly less than the competition.
Disadvantages of Compostable Phone Cases
- Compostable phone cases cannot decompose in the sea; they instead float on water. This pollution causes a threat to marine life.
- Some compostable phone cases produce methane when decomposing, which accelerates climate change.
- They are expensive because expensive equipment is used in their manufacturing.
- Compostable phone cases are still rare in the market.
As with all things, new manufactured compostable products and materials are in their infancy in many ways. There are pros and cons to this process, such as home backyard compost bins being made out of plastic, water being used to grow the products the phone cases are made from, and competing for space and other food crops. But we have to start somewhere in the cycle, and for the most part, compostable phone cases are a very good start in the fight against pollution and destroying our oceans.
The manufacture of compostable phone cases is being embraced by many, especially because of its benefits. This will create more employment opportunities and help conserve the environment to reduce global warming and pollution. Whether you want a unique phone case or are looking to improve the ecosystem, compostable phone cases are an excellent choice.
- Compostable Plastics 101
- US Composting Council: Compostable Products
- Compostable Plastics 101: AN OVERVIEW OF COMPOSTABLE PLASTICS
- CONSERVE ENERGY FUTURE: What are Biodegradable Plastics
- BIODEGRADABLE PRODUCTS INSTITUTE: The Compostable Logo
- ASTM INTERNATIONAL: What is ASTM?