Pela prides itself on being the first brand to sell compostable phone cases, which has now expanded to include AirPod cases. Their innovative formula that solely uses plant-based materials is inspiring, as it establishes a new standard for zero waste practices. While this forward thinking is exactly what we should expect from companies, it is important to note that Pela still has some room to grow. Specifically, their website lacks transparency around manufacturing, and they need to disclose more information about their supply chain before they can be fully labeled as sustainable.
Like their phone cases, Pela’s AirPod cases are made of Flaxstic®, a material comprised of compostable bioplastic elastomer and flax straw scraps. Upon first reading these materials, consumers may be confused, but Pela breaks them down into simpler terms. By breaking down these terms, Pela shows a commitment to sustainable education, raising awareness of green technology and how that leads to a more environmentally-friendly future. Elastomers are a type of substance derived from natural polymers, like natural rubber, and are known for their high flexibility and durability. Pela’s elastomers are sourced from bioplastic, a plant-based material that requires up to 50% less non-renewable energy and produces up to 60% less greenhouse gases than traditional plastic polymers. These elastomers are combined with flax straw waste which is a byproduct of oilseed flax that is lightweight and has natural shock absorbing qualities perfect for protecting fragile technology. This formula creates a fully compostable and biodegradable material that promotes the shift from conventional plastic. Consumers have the option to compost their cases at home following Pela’s instructions, or send them back to be recycled into new Pela products if they are unable to compost themselves. Flaxstic® is free of phthalates, BPA, cadmium, and lead emphasizing Pela’s use of clean ingredients that avoid toxic substances or industrial chemicals involved in the production of a substantial portion of plastic products. Each AirPod case is shipped in the minimum amount of packaging required and the packaging is all made from recyclable cardboard.
While there is no information on where Pela sources its elastomers from, they do detail the supply chain process of their flax shive. Pela sources its flax fiber in Saskatchewan, Canada where the most oilseed flax is grown in the world. Farmers in the area would typically burn the straw-like material leftover from oilseed flax as it is too difficult to break down in the field. The use of this material in Pela’s products supports local farmers in Canada and provides new life for a substance typically seen as waste. When it comes to the building process of their products, Pela provides ample videos revealing how they assemble their cases and how consumers are meant to use them. During the manufacturing process, they blend together their bioplastic elastomers and flax straw scraps to create their Flaxstic® that is then melted and poured via machine into molds that produce their phone and AirPod cases. These cases are made in small batches to ensure that they prevent excess waste that would be caused by overstocking. Pela discloses that they manufacture their products in both Canada and China, but don’t include any information on working conditions or certifications. With such detailed information on their flax fiber sourcing, I don’t see why Pela wouldn’t be able to provide more transparency on the rest of their manufacturing process. I urge Pela to take these further steps in order for consumers to be able to make the most informed decision when choosing to buy their products.
Pela was founded in 2008 by Jeremy Lang after he learned of the damage plastic was doing to our oceans and set a goal to find an alternative to plastic that could be used in everyday products. With the invention of the Pela phone case, Lang set forth a company committed to sustainability and zero waste principles. Pela is Climate Neutral Certified as it offsets all of its carbon emissions by purchasing verified carbon credits. They also disclosed a three part Reduction Plan in 2020 focused on streamlining transportation routes by building distribution centers in Canada and Europe, continuing to promote the Pela 360 Program to globally decrease product end-of-life waste, and shift to more renewable energy sources. I was unable to find information on the progress of this plan, however, Pela seems dedicated to staying in this direction and with more clarity I would give them a full three planets. Pela has also held a partnership with 1% for the Planet since 2016 and works with several other charitable organizations, such as the Surfrider Foundation, which works to preserve and conserve coastlines, and ME to WE, which ensures that communities in Kenya are given access to clean water.