Purchasing plastic nowadays is inevitable for most people, due to lack of alternatives and the major push for sterile products during the COVID-19 pandemic. One plastic item that is important to me, as a consumer, is my plastic phone case. A phone case is not something that adds value to my life, because I would not die if I did not have a plastic case on my phone, but it does increase the safety of my cell phone. Having a case on my phone means that I can bring it to places and not worry about the important information on my phone disappearing if I dropped it and broke it. It also is helpful because I don’t want to have to pay hundreds of dollars on a new phone if I can buy a $50 phone case that will prevent that.
The phone case that I currently have is an Otterbox iPhone 13 clear case which is made out of Polycarbonate and synthetic rubber. Polycarbonate is a thermoplastic which means that it can be melted and reshaped, which is a better trait for plastic compared to a thermoset plastic, which is permanently shaped. The Otterbox website states that the case is made out of 50% recycled plastic but it is unclear where the recycled plastic came from previously. That also means that the other half of the case is 50% new plastic, which is a point not mentioned on the website because that is not a good selling point. There are many different types of synthetic rubber but it is important to note that synthetic rubber is an elastomer and derives from petroleum. The company is based in California, but their products are made throughout the US, China, and Mexico.
A single phone case can last for years, depending on how you take care of it, but personally, they last me around a year before they turn yellow and begin breaking down. I also drop my phone quite often and the Otterbox cases always prevent my phone from cracking and breaking or shattering the screen. The brand itself states on their website, “We’re at the beginning of this journey toward sustainability and we don’t have all the answers — but we’re asking the right questions to help us bring Otter innovation to better managing our environmental footprint” (Otterbox). They appear to care about their environmental footprint, as they do use recycled plastic, but they could do more as a company for the planet. The company itself is worth billions of dollars, so it is shocking that they do not have a plan in place already, but they are working on a plan currently. An important point to mention is that they do have a warranty plan so that if your case breaks within a certain amount of time, they will replace it for free. This is a nice feature from the brand, but they just send you a new one instead of taking the old one back and recycling it into a new case. After the case is broken and no longer usable, it is sent to the landfill where it will never decompose.
The fact that a phone case is a very important item in my day-to-day life speaks to how times have changed drastically in the past fifty years. It is upsetting that this is an item that I need and there is nothing I can do about its afterlife, except look for a sustainable alternative. Even if there is an alternative, it might not perform at the level that my plastic phone case would, which would be a waste of money in the long run. Hopefully, Otterbox is able to find a way to incorporate more sustainable practices into their products in the future, but for now, they are the best plastic phone case on the market in my opinion.