How Environmentally Friendly is Incipio Organicore?

Pela created the world’s first fully compostable phone case in an effort to combat plastic pollution, and though we have seen other companies take small steps to improve the environmental sustainability of their products and services, we have yet to see others take strides to create phone cases made from similarly compostable bioplastics. The world of phone cases continues to be heavily dominated by petroleum-based plastics, and those companies that do take steps towards becoming eco-friendly often don’t go the extra mile to create truly green products. 

Incipio, a popular phone case brand best known for its wallet phone case, has recently launched a new line of phone cases called Organicore. The Organicore line of phone cases is advertised as being made from 100% compostable plant-based materials, designed to fully degrade in residential or commercial composting environments. Thrilled to see another eco-friendly phone case on the market, we decided to put the new Incipio Organicore phone cases to the test to find out just how environmentally friendly they really are. 



The Compost Test

While we could have just buried several phone cases in our compost piles and waited a few months, we’ve got more sophisticated ways of doing things here at Pela. Using specialty equipment designed to speed up the composting process using heat, airflow, and circulation, we put one of the Organicore phone cases to the test against a compostable Pela Case to see how they would stack up. Basically, we wanted to see if Organicore could decompose as readily as the Pela Case, and what would be left over after the process had finished.

Before
"Biodegradable" Case After
Pela Case After

To our dismay, after 36 hours in our compost simulator, the results of the compost test were lackluster, to say the least. While the Pela Case degraded quickly and uniformly as expected, the Organicore case was practically fully intact upon removal from the machinery. While the Pela Case had turned to mush, the Incipio Organicore case lost only the top quarter, remaining otherwise intact and only warping slightly along the edges. Despite being marketed as 100% compostable, based on our discoveries, we’d say the Organicore phone case line is closer to biodegradable.



Compostable vs. Biodegradable

Lots of people mistakenly believe that the terms ‘compostable’ and ‘biodegradable’ are readily interchangeable, when in fact they have important distinctions that make each term unique. Compostable materials are made entirely from organic matter and can be broken down quickly by microorganisms without chemical assistance. Examples of compostable materials include grass, eggshells, leaves, and corncobs. 

Biodegradable materials may also be made entirely of naturally derived materials, and will also fully break down once disposed of. This is where the similarities between the two types of materials end. While compostable materials will readily break down in a composting environment, biodegradable materials have an undefined lifespan and may exist in compost heaps or landfills for decades before beginning to break down.

Since the Incipio Organicore phone case only partially broke down, displaying an ability to break down if given an unspecified amount of time, these items can be categorized as biodegradable, not compostable as advertised. If you toss an Organicore case in your compost pile, it will likely live there intact for many years to come, and will not break down to the same essential natural components as truly compostable materials will.



Greenwashing

The Incipio Organicore line is an excellent example of greenwashing. Greenwashing refers to when companies use eco-friendly buzz-words to market their materials and give the impression of eco-friendliness despite not qualifying as eco-friendly. In this case, Incipio is advertising a line of biodegradable phone cases as ‘compostable’, which simply isn’t true. 

While Incipio should be applauded for using natural, plant-based materials to create their line of biodegradable phone cases, calling them ‘100% compostable’ is misleading, and misrepresentative of the true nature of the product. Incipio also uses the terms ‘biodegradable’ and ‘compostable’ interchangeably in their marketing copy, further promoting the common misunderstandings related to eco-friendly and green materials. 



Incipio Organicore vs. Pela Case

We’ve stacked Pela up against plenty of other companies to see how environmentally friendly phone cases really are, and time and time again we discover that most companies are lacking in at least one area. While any effort to reduce the environmental impact of a business is a valuable one, leading customers to mistakenly believe that a product is compostable for the sake of clout and profit won’t help you build a better, greener company.

Like Pela, Incipio uses fully plant-derived materials in the production of their phone cases, giving them a relatively high score when it comes to the environmental friendliness of the materials they use. Where Incipio falls short is in the ‘end of life’ category, with their phone cases taking an indeterminate amount of time to begin to degrade, and certainly not meeting the high standards required to be considered compostable. Pela cases will decompose after just a few months in your home compost pile, making us the one and only fully compostable phone cases currently available.