At Pela, we’re changing the landscape of the mobile phone accessories industry. We’re thrilled that some of the other players in the market are following our lead and offering more eco-friendly products. As the pioneers of eco-friendly phone cases, we feel a responsibility to encourage even more improvement throughout our industry. In this comparison, we will look at the sustainability credentials of our Pela case vs. Case-Mate’s newly launched Eco94 line.
Case-Mate’s Eco94 line features three case types- Eco94 Recycled, Eco-Clear, and Eco94 Biodegradable. Each of these cases has different sustainability credentials so we will look at them individually.
This product line claims to be made from recycled material, sourced from the automotive industry. After the product’s useful life, it can be recycled again but will not naturally biodegrade or break down.
The Case-Mate Eco94 Recycled line occupies the bottom-left quadrant of not bio-based, and not biodegradable.
It is commendable that Case-Mate is not adding more synthetic plastic to our world with this line, however, it is simply delaying the inevitable and extending the useful life of this particular plastic for 1-2 years. When plastic is composted, usually its long molecular chains start breaking down and shortening, making them less stable. Every additional round of recycling shortens those plastic molecules even more. It is a sad reality that only around 10% of material that is put into household recycling is actually recycled. There will be even less of a resale market for this molecularly weakened plastic material.
The ink used to print onto this line of cases is not derived from sustainable sources and would also be likely to cause complications in the recycling process.
Vague claims are an issue that plagues companies that are new to sustainable practices. When it is stated that a product is “made from sustainable (plant-based) bio-plastics, they fail to mention what percentage is actually plant based. In our experience, most samples on the market are comprised of as low as 10-15% plant-based material, the remainder of the product is made from thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU).
While some materials are both bio-based and biodegradable, Eco-Clear is just bio-based, not biodegradable.
Just because a material is derived from plants, it will not necessarily break down in the same way that plants would. Case-Mate claims that Eco-Clear is recyclable but makes no claims for it being compostable or even biodegradable. With no plan for the end of this product’s life, it will likely end up in a landfill, just like any other plastic case.
There is very little that is sustainable about the Case-Mate Eco-Clear line of cases. It is textbook greenwashing by adding a small percentage of bio-based material to an otherwise traditional, non-sustainable product.
Biodegradable is a misleading term. For a product to qualify as biodegradable, it just needs to be able to break down in some period of time. That could be 5 years, or it could be 500 years. No distinction is made. Without verified testing for the decomposition time, it is very difficult to know if this any better for the environment than a traditional case.
All compostable materials are by definition, biodegradable. Not all biodegradable materials are compostable.
Pela Case is made of a proprietary compound called Flaxstic®, which is comprised of compostable bioplastic elastomer and flax straw materials. Flaxstic® material meets U.S. (ASTM D6400-04) and E.U. (EN 13432) standards for composting in an industrial composting facility and has a lower carbon footprint and lower greenhouse gas emissions than traditional plastic. It can also be left to biodegrade in a home composting environment.
Pela case’s material is 35-40% biobased, which means it is made up of 35-40% biobased (renewable) content by weight. The ASTM Standard D6866 defines biobased as new carbon (carbon from renewable resources like plants). We add up to 10% flax shive to the base material to create Flaxstic®, which increases the overall biobased content by weight to 45%. The remaining 55% of our current Flaxstic® formulation is comprised of non renewable resources.
You can read more about Pela Case on our FAQs page.
Case-Mate’s Eco94 line of cases picks and chooses its environmental features, with more of a focus on marketing than on actually creating sustainable products. The Eco94 Recycled and Eco-Clear products fail to offer a graceful end of life and are likely to spend decades in our landfills or waterways, just the same as Case-Mate's regular plastic cases. The Eco94 biodegradable case will break down in the right environment, but there is no definitive timeline given for how long that decomposition might take.
Pela case is certified compostable, meaning in a proper composting environment, it will break down in as little as three months. This small, but crucial difference is what allows Pela case to avoid polluting our waterways and adding to our pollution problem. Pela case remains the best-in-class among environmentally friendly phone cases.
Every step made towards sustainability is a step in the right direction. We hope that Case-Mate will continue to improve the sustainability of their products. We also hope that they will pivot more of their marketing and focus away from the sections of their product line that take no steps towards reducing pollution.