Why Use a Compostable Phone Case?

Why Use a Compostable Phone Case

There is one trash issue that many people might not be aware of, and it is something that we should take more seriously. Phone cases add to the plastic pollution problem, and with 3.8 billion smartphone users worldwide today, 79% of which use a phone case, this should be on everybody’s radar. One thing we can do about this is start using compostable phone cases. 

Use a compostable phone case since it not only protects your phone but also helps save the environment. These phone cases create nutrient-rich humus that nourishes plant life, taking only 60 to 90 days to break down, and cases like the Pela Case are 100% compostable and free of BPA and phthalates.

To better understand what compostable means and to find out how it differs from biodegradable products and how phone cases compost, read on. The rest of the article will also talk about why you should consider switching to compostable phone cases, and we will then take a look at the different options you can choose.

What Is a Compostable Phone Case?

What Is a Compostable Phone Case?
Pela Stormy Blue iPhone 12/iPhone 12 Pro Case

For this article to better identify what a compostable phone case is, let us first discuss what the two terms mean. 

Two recycling terms that are often used interchangeably but have key distinctions are biodegradable and compostable. We discuss this topic in-depth in our article What Is a Compostable Phone Case?

Biodegradable: An Overview

Any material is biodegradable when it can break down completely with microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi. It can decompose back into natural elements, carbon dioxide, and water under the right environmental conditions.

This definition technically includes just about anything in the world, although they will break down at different rates. And plastics are notorious for taking decades and thousands of years to decompose naturally.

Ideally, biodegradable substances, such as animal-based, plant-based, or natural mineral-based products, should degrade quickly without leaving behind toxic residue. However, when they end up in landfills, they get buried for years, and without oxygen, methane emissions are then created. 

Compostable: An Overview

The term compostable refers to materials that can disintegrate by microorganisms within a shorter time frame in a compost environment. These compost sites are designed with specific conditions dependent on temperature, moisture, and oxygen levels. 

Compostable substances typically come from plants and other organic materials, such as Polylactic Acid (PLA), corn starch, or bagasse. If disposed of correctly, they can benefit the environment because they break down faster. They do not leave behind toxic residue but instead create nutrient-rich humus that is great for plant growth or the environment in general. 

However, for products like plastics and phone cases to be labeled or considered commercially “compostable,” they must be broken down in an industrial composting facility. So when the product or packaging states that it is compostable, this means only if under industrial-scale conditions. 

You can have your home compost heap on a smaller scale, and you can compost vegetable scraps, yard clippings, coffee grounds, filters, and, say, a Pela phone case. It is up to us to work our home compost correctly and efficiently. It means that even if the packaging says it is compostable, it will not decompose quickly, if at all, on your compost piles or worm bins if the compost is not maintained properly. 

The Difference Between Biodegradable Plastic and Compostable Plastic

The Difference Between Biodegradable Plastic and Compostable Plastic
The Difference Between Biodegradable Plastic and Compostable Plastic

Now that you know the definition of the two, it is easy to understand why anyone can get confused. But there are a few differences.

While compostable materials are all biodegradable, it is important to note that not every biodegradable material is compostable. There are also not enough commercial facilities to compost everything in the world today or anytime soon.

Surfrider Foundation says that it does not support compostable plastic because there are no commercial composting facilities in San Diego. That is a short-sided view, and not hoping for additional commercial composting facilities in all world areas.

Using biodegradable and compostable phone cases should turn into a world project to help the planet like everything that has to do with garbage. Once the phone case gets a crack or gets damaged, they hopefully can naturally get broken down. Still, they can sometimes leave behind toxic residue, unlike anything compostable that releases nutrients back into the soil if in the right setting. 

And this brings us to the primary difference between the two: biodegradable materials break down naturally after longer time frames, while compostable products need specific conditions to decompose but more quickly.

How Long Does It Take for Them To Decompose?

Biodegradable plastics should decompose fully in three to six months. But it can also take years and may even take as long as regular plastics if not under the right environmental conditions. On the other hand, compostable plastics can take a shorter time to break down, depending on how well the composting pile is maintained. It can take two to five weeks in your home composting pile. It may be necessary for some individuals to dispose of their cases only in a controlled setting like an industrial composting facility. 

The Caveat

Whether it be biodegradable or compostable, both need the right settings to decompose. In this day and age, with so many environmental issues, business owners should be more responsible in using the appropriate labels on their products and educating their customers on how to dispose of them correctly.

That is why when it comes to biodegradable and compostable claims, the Federal Trade Commission issued Green Guides that are meant for marketers to avoid making environmental claims that can mislead consumers. The state of California also has regulations that limit the usage of certain packaging terms, and the US Standard ASTM D6400 and D6868 specify the label requirements for plastic to be commercially “compostable.” 

Please see some of our other interesting articles like “Can A Phone Case Affect Wifi Reception?” and “Why Use A Biodegradable Phone Case?”

How Does a Phone Case Compost?

How Does a Phone Case Compost?
How Does a Phone Case Compost?

Traditionally, phone cases are produced with petroleum-based chemicals or other nonrenewable resources that are toxic, but compostable phone cases are typically made using plant-based oil extracted from flaxseed. Pela cases, which are the first 100% compostable phone cases in the world, use Flaxtic, which is their “proprietary bioplastic recipe made from flax shive and plant-based polymers.” 

For Moment’s compostable phone case, the flax seed’s husk also makes the case less dense, which speeds up the breakdown process and reduces waste. So, flaxseed plastics should disintegrate quickly into natural elements after a couple of months when put in a compost pile, leaving behind no toxins.

CASETiFY’s ecotify™ cases, which are “a proprietary blend of biopolymers, starch, and bamboo,” will decompose in a regulated composting facility. On the other hand, Pela’s compostable plastics are free of toxins like Petrochemical-based PBAT, BPA, and phthalates, making them home compostable safe.

When it is time to dispose of your phone case, you can either compost it at home (if it does not require an industrial composting facility), drop it off at your local composting site, or in some instances, return it to the company. 

The Problem with PBAT and Microplastics Generated from Biodegradable Plastics

Microplastics from Biodegradable Plastics in Water

According to a study, Microplastics Generated from a Biodegradable Plastic in Freshwater and Seawater, published April 6, 2021, in Water Research, was authored by Xin-Feng Wei and Mikael Hedenqvis, KTH Royal Institute for Technology; and Martin Bohlén, Catrin Lindblad, and Aron Hakonen, RISE Research Institutes of Sweden.

The study discussed Biodegradable polymers have been regarded as a promising solution to tackle the pollutions caused by the wide use of conventional polymers. However, during the biodegradation process, the material fragmentation leads to microplastics. In this work, the formation of microplastics from biodegradable poly (butylene adipate-co-terephthalate) (PBAT) in different aquatic environments was investigated and compared with the common non-biodegradable low-density polyethylene (LDPE). The results showed that a much larger quantity of plastic fragments/particles were formed in all aquatic environments from PBAT than from LDPE. In addition, UV-A pretreatment, simulating the exposure to sunlight, increased the rate of PBAT microplastic formation significantly.

Microplastics generated from a biodegradable plastic in freshwater and seawater, Water Research, Volume 198, 2021, 117123, ISSN 0043-1354

Why You Should Use a Compostable Phone Case

In recent years, people have been campaigning hard against single-use plastics, and they have been more aware and conscious about shopping for sustainable products. If you are one of them, you probably also switched to other re-cyclable materials, but now that you know that compostable phone cases exist. They are a thing; you must be thinking about replacing your smartphone’s hard plastic case too. 

But it is only fair to wonder if they are sturdy enough to protect your phone or if they will wear out more quickly than your traditional case. The answer is no; compostable phone cases will not break down after using them for only a few weeks on your phone. 

Look at all the compostable phone cases available on the market right now, and compare them to the plastic ones. They should all perform equally and protect your phone just as efficiently, as they also passed the same drop tests that companies have subjected all their cases to verify.

So, if you want to help the environment and ramp up your support for sustainable living, you should consider using a compostable phone case. If you are the type who regularly changes your case, depending on your mood, outfit, and occasion, then try looking for compostable options. 

Remember, not all compostable materials can break down and decompose on their own. If you choose to buy a compostable phone case, you are responsible for making sure they end up in the right composting environment later on. 

3 Best Eco-Friendly Phone Cases To Consider

3 Best Eco-Friendly Phone Cases To Consider
Ocean Turquoise (Turtle Edition) iPhone 12iPhone 12 Pro Case

Finding a true compostable phone case is hard, especially since many companies claim theirs are eco-friendly when, in fact, they are not. The labels can get confusing too, but now that you know the difference between biodegradable and compostable, this should make the search easier (hint: not all biodegradable materials are compostable). 

Here is a quick rundown of some of the best eco-friendly and compostable phone cases you can choose.

Pela Phone Cases

Pela phone cases are plant-based and the first 100% compostable cases ever invented, so it is not surprising that they are first on this list. There are so many Pela case reviews online, and they all rave about the brand and what they have contributed to the plastic-free ocean movement.

If you are looking for Samsung cases, check out their official website for options. Also, support their Pela 360 program: buy their case, return your old one, and they upcycle it or compost it for you. 

EcoFashionByWilma.com Phone Cases

Swedish company Eco Fashion By Wilma makes a phone case product that is plant-based and made from residual waste from corn production and produced through a fermentation process. The result is a substance that is similar to plastic but not plastic. Most importantly, it is renewable and compostable.

Non-toxic plastic-free Wilma Phone cases are biodegradable according to European standard EN 13432 and can completely disintegrate into carbon dioxide and water without leaving any toxic residue.

The packaging of the Wilma Phone case is also made from recycled cardboard and is printed with soy-based color.

Urban Armor Gear Outback Bio Series 

This case is 100% compostable and biodegradable, and it is a good option for you if you want something utilitarian and straightforward (the color is anything but plain, though). It meets the military drop-test standards, so you do not have to worry about not having enough cushion for your case. The raised bevel design on the camera adds protection there too.

U.S. Compost Facility Site Map

www.compostingcouncil.org/page/participants

Compostable Specification U.S.A.

ASTM D6400 – 19 Standard Specification for Labeling of Plastics Designed to be Aerobically Composted in Municipal or Industrial Facilities.

ASTM D6868 – 21 Standard Specification for Labeling of End Items that Incorporate Plastics and Polymers as Coatings or Additives with Paper and Other Substrates Designed to be Aerobically Composted in Municipal or Industrial Facilities.

The Rationale for Development of ASTM D6400

ASTM & ISO Definitions on Environmentally Degradable Plastics 

  • Degradable plastic, a plastic designed to undergo a significant change in its chemical structure under specific environmental conditions resulting in a loss of some properties that may vary as measured by standard test methods appropriate to the plastic and the application in a period of time that determines its classification.
  • Biodegradable plastic, a degradable plastic in which the degradation results from the action of naturally-occurring micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi and algae.
  • Photodegradable plastic, a degradable plastic in which the degradation results from the action of natural daylight.
  • Oxidatively degradable plastic, a degradable plastic in which the degradation results from oxidation.
  • Hydrolytically degradable plastic, a degradable plastic in which the degradation results from hydrolysis.
  • Compostable plastic, a plastic that undergoes degradation by biological processes during composting to yield carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass at a rate consistent with other known, compostable materials and leaves no visually distinguishable or toxic residue.

Compostable Specification European Union

If bioplastics have proven their compostability according to international standards, they can be treated in industrial composting plants. Plastic products can provide proof of their compostability by successfully meeting the harmonized European standard, EN 13432 or EN 14995. These two standards define the technical specification for the compostability of bioplastics products:

EN 13432:2000 Packaging: Requirements for packaging recoverable through composting and biodegradation Test scheme and evaluation criteria for the final acceptance of packaging. 

This is a harmonized European standard linked to the European Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste (94/62/EC). It allows for the presumption of conformity with essential requirements of the Directive. It has been translated and implemented in all the European Member States.

EN 14995:2006 Plastics: Evaluation of compostability test scheme and specifications. It broadens the scope of plastics when used in non-packaging applications. The EN 13432 applies when plastics are used for packaging.

Final Thoughts 

We compost at home so we can take responsibility for our actions. To not support compostable materials is a cop-out and lazy. Do the work, figure it out, and do your part for your children and grandchildren. The world’s pollution problem did not happen overnight and will take time to fix if we try.

If you can switch to bamboo straws and eco-bags, you should consider going for a compostable phone case the next time you look for one. Just remember that they can only fully decompose in specific conditions, whether in a home compost pile or an industrial composting facility. 

Please do not throw your compostable products in the recycling bin because they are not designed to biodegrade in a landfill. 

References:

John Mortensen

I am a project manager, tech writer, and science enthusiast who loves to study the latest technology, such as AI, comedy, quantum computers, smartphones, headphones, and software.

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