Tue. May 21st, 2024


Key Takeaways

  • Bellroy’s Bio Phone Case is compostable, but long-term testing showed it didn’t easily break down in plain soil.
  • Bellroy is shifting focus to sustainability through recycled materials, as demand for the Bio Phone Case was low.


Talk about long-term testing. It took me over five months to check whether Bellroy’s Bio Phone Case would actually disintegrate. Surprisingly, when I pulled it out of the ground to check on its status, nothing had changed. It looked like it did when I buried it.

Bellroy Bio iPhone 14 Pro Case

Bellroy Bio Phone Case

This super slim case protects your phone from the daily grind, and can be fully composted at the end of its life.

Material
Bio-based polymer and bamboo composite

Wireless Charging Support
Yes

Weight
1.25oz

Included Screen Protector
No

Screen protector included
No

What’s the Bellroy Bio Case?

Bellroy Bio Phone Case buried in dirt
Tyler Hayes / How-To Geek

Bellroy Bio Phone Case in the dirt in September 2023.

In September of 2022, Bellroy released its Bio Phone Case for the iPhone 14 series of phones. It was a minimalist case that had two intertwined features. It was made with an “innovative bio-based polymer, mixed with bamboo flecks for texture” and, it was “designed to be composted at the end of its life, breaking down with no toxic residue in about six months.”


I used the case for a bit, and I liked it fine, but it didn’t stand out enough from the dozen or so other cases I was testing to warrant continued use. It sat in a drawer until the iPhone 14 Pro I was using was replaced with an iPhone 15 Pro in September of 2023.

I donated or threw away all the cases that no longer fit any phones in the house, but instead of tossing the Bio Phone Case, I buried it in our side yard among bushes and trees, with a little less than an inch of dirt covering it. At the time it actually felt really good to keep this accessory out of the trashcan.

Bellroy Bio Phone Case in dirt after being buried for five months
Tyler Hayes / How-To Geek

Bellroy Bio Phone Case in March 2024.

After plopping the case in the ground I took of picture of it, both for a future comparison and to remember when and where I had buried it.


What Happened With the Bio Case?

Bellroy Bio Phone Case with mud on it
Tyler Hayes / How-To Geek

About a week into March 2024, I dug it up. When I started scraping the dirt away, I worried about separating pieces of the deteriorating case. That didn’t happen. Instead, I pulled the whole case up right away. It was muddy and had a slight warp to it from the weight of the dirt on top of it, but otherwise, it was fully intact.

The Bellroy logo and interior text were all legible. I could still see the texture flecks on the outside and the tiny textured ridges on the inside. I rinsed it off and it looked like it had before. Now, over five months later, holding this case in my hand, I no longer felt good about burying it. I felt silly.

Although Southern California isn’t known for its winter weather, we have had between 5 and 10 inches of rain since January, which is 200% of our average precipitation. The soil hasn’t been bone dry.


Of course, my testing area wasn’t an actual compost container. It didn’t have an optimal level of nutrients, temperature, or the other things that make a suitable environment.

Instead of focusing on the composting part, I read the scant composition description quoted above, that the case was not only biodegradable but that it was also safe enough not to leave any toxins behind. I guess I was focusing on the wrong parts. And maybe it’s just me, but it seems a little unlikely that most people have access to a compost bin or other appropriate facility.

This isn’t some gotcha moment. It merely seemed implied that the Bio Phone Case could be disposed of anywhere outside, naturally, but it didn’t turn out that way. I might see if I can find someone with a compose bin and try again. Or maybe even this Bio Case is too much work to get rid of naturally.


Sustainability in Tech Accessories

It doesn’t seem like there will be a second round of Bio Cases from Bellroy either. No, we’ll get ‘em next time, sentiment.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t see enough demand for our Bio Phone Case to continue it,” said Jula Gaw, Bellroy’s Brand Communications Director. “Our customers continued to reach for our other phone cases, which offered them the ‘known’ performance of leather and polymer instead.”

Rather, the company seems to be finding more sustainability success by using recycled materials to build its bags and other accessories.

“We are constantly investing in material development–currently, our main focus is on recycled streams (we’re about to launch a new material made from recycled ocean waste),” said Gaw. “Bio-based streams have much further to go in their development, to offer the durability and longevity we prioritize for our products but we are very much committed to making progress here.”


As a tech enthusiast on the front line of churning through consumer electronics and their accessories, I do wish there were advancements in this area.

I would love to dump old products into the dirt and forget about them. Especially things like phone cases, which have very short windows of usefulness. Either they get worn down or don’t fit the next phone.

Mostly, I wish Bellroy’s tagline for the Bio Phone Case—“This case never needs to end up in landfill”—ended up having more of an impact.



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By John P.

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