Pela strives to create completely compostable phone cases, leaving behind no toxic trace chemicals during the degradation process and cleanly repurposing the material back into the environment. The company’s efforts to educate its consumers are to be applauded, as each phone case comes with instructions on how to dispose of their phone cases. Buyers can choose one of 3 options: industrial composting, home composting, or contacting Pela and returning the product back to them, to ensure that it is recycled properly. On the other hand, the company leaves many questions remaining to be answered, specifically regarding who makes the products as well as how the bioplastics the cases contain are produced. Transparency is an evident issue with this company, as certain pieces are missing from the bigger picture.
Pela’s phone cases are composed of what they call Flaxstic®, a material consisting of synthesized bioplastic elastomer and leftover flax straw material. The company’s sustainable advantage lies in this unconventional twist on plastic, which is branded as environmentally friendly. Elastomers are substances with high viscoelasticity, known for their durability, flexibility, and strength; normally elastomers are created from rubber alternatives such as polymers. Pela’s elastomers are created from bioplastic; when combined with flax shive, which adds texture, shock resistance, and design elements, you get a plant-based product with the great result of one less phone case headed straight to the landfill. Pela emphasizes the differences between biodegradable plastics and compostable plastics: the former has the potential to leave toxic substances behind during degradation, while the latter degrades cleanly, leaving no traces. Pela’s cases do not contain BPA, lead, cadmium, and phthalates, all of which are toxic substances or industrial chemicals involved in the production of a substantial portion of plastic products. These substances have harmful effects on the health and development of infants and children. On the other hand, limited information and substantiation is available to verify the greenness of Pela’s products, in terms of where the bioplastics are sourced, therefore more transparency would be ideal.
Select information is available regarding how Pela’s products are made, beyond the materials themselves. Pela sources its flax shive from flax fields located in Canada. Farmers of flax fields have no need for the straw-like material leftover from harvesting flax seeds, so Pela chose to repurpose the fibrous substances into its phone cases. During manufacturing, the flax shive is mixed with biodegradable polymer pellets, melted, and then poured via machine into a mold to produce the phone cases, with each one taking about a minute to create.
Pela has conducted a life-cycle-analysis through a third-party organization to compare the environmental impact of the life cycle of its cases, with conventionally used phone cases. The analysis focused on carbon emissions, water consumed, and waste generation in relation to 100% petroleum-based products; the end conclusion of the LCA was that Pela products are less harmful to the environment than their commonly used counterparts, which does create a foundation of trust for the consumer. Pela has also dedicated a page on its website to showcase the results of its “compost test,” where the company placed a regular phone case and a Pela phone case in an industrial compost. After 12 weeks, the Pela case had broken down entirely, while the regular phone case stayed intact, proving that their products are indeed compostable.
Pela relies on a local Canadian manufacturing company, Ventec Design & Manufacturing Ltd., for its production, and has been doing so for 8-9 years, constantly working together to improve their compostable formula. Beyond a short YouTube video, not much information is to be found regarding workers’ rights and manufacturing conditions within the factory, which raises the question of transparency. Outside of internal affairs, Pela has demonstrated a commitment to social justice by aiding communities through charitable contributions. Their website also showcases a promotional video describing the company atmosphere as open and inviting, however yet again, limited information is available regarding specifics of the company’s internal structure.