While it might not be the biggest source of plastics showing up in waterways and failing to degrade in landfills, biodegradable phone cases could be a start.
According to Michael Pratt, the founder of Pivet, his company’s smartphone cases utilize a newly developed material that will completely decompose in traditional environments like landfills. And, as opposed to most plastics that can take hundreds of years to break down, these cases could be completely decomposed in about two years.
This ability stems from a proprietary material called Tota-Toa. Borrowing from the Samoan terms for heroic blood, Pivet states that the material is comprised of natural and non-toxic ingredients, but won’t go further than that due to pending IP protection processes.
The company goes on to state in a Wired article that Tota-Toa’s composition helps speed up the natural biodegradation process by attracting micro-organisms when the case enters microbe-rich environments, like landfills or oceans. These microbes colonize on the surface of the case and then break the plastic down.
Pratt’s perspective is that plastic isn’t necessarily the problem — its end-of-life handling is what Tota-Toa could improve by removing any special consumer obligations. According to the EPA, more than 90% of plastic is never recycled.
Toto-Toa been validated by the product testing and certification company Intertek, and has been tested to the ASTM D5511 and ISO 15985 standards.
Pivet has also begun a partnership with the Ocean Agency to help promote ocean conservancy. A portion of every Ocean Blue Pivet Aspect case will go to supporting the nonprofit’s efforts.
Despite Pivet’s progress, there are some concerns about lab testing translating to the real world, which could translate to a longer degradation timeframe.
Aside from smartphone cases, applications for the material could literally be endless. With one-time plastic packaging comprising about 40% of annual plastics production, those items could be a leading candidate for additional product development.