Eco-friendly products often feel like a trade-off: More expensive than ordinary products, sometimes less functional … and rarely cooler. Samsung aims to change that entire dynamic with the release of slick new limited-edition Galaxy S21 cases and Galaxy Watch bands by streetwear designer Sean Wotherspoon.
The products carry clever, Earth Day-friendly patterns including planet earth icons, peach simples, flowers, and so on, and come in colorful themes called Orchid, Dan, and Rain. They’re made from an eco-conscious substance called thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) that Samsung says is non-toxic, has no DMF residue (a toxic solvent), is non-plasticized, and can be recycled when the time comes. But they don’t just recycle: They’re able to simply decompose in a landfill, unlike your average hunk of plastic.
“Data shows it significantly biodegrades -- under the right conditions, that is, it’s not going to degrade on your wrist! But in landfill conditions, it’s 20-30% degraded in 180 days,” Mark Newton, Samsung’s head of Corporate Sustainability, told TechRadar. In other words, the products won’t simply fall off your body or around your cell phone, but they will decompose completely.
Newton pointed us to the Toto Toa plastics manufacturing company, a name that means "brave blood" in Samoan. The site offers details on its plastics, which it says are "made from TPU diverted from the waste stream during the manufacturing process" of other products, including phone cases, sports products, shoes, and so on.
“From the start, it was clear that we were aligned on our commitment to sustainability and finding real eco-conscious solutions people can use in their everyday lives,” said Sean Wotherspoon in a press release announcing the new cases. “It’s what drew me to this opportunity. The collection is a simple, yet powerful way for people to show their support of the planet timed to Earth Day.”
The concept of decomposing tech gear isn’t new, and these aren’t the first completely biodegradable cases on the market. You can get compostable cases from Pela, Casetify, and a good company, for example, and other companies aim to recycle used plastic, tires, and whatever into your next gadget holder. But those products don’t carry the street cred Samsung aims to bring through its partnership with indie designer Wotherspoon.
“When I found out about this, I thought it was going to be one of those gimmicky things,” joked Samsung's Newton. “But I dug into it, learned more about the vendors producing the material, and I’m pretty excited about it.”
What’s a 100% recycled TPU? It’s polyurethane material that’s been gathered up, reground, and reproduced into a fresh new resin. And it’s then “crosslinked” with material that allows it to biodegrade, Newton explained.
The limited-edition case and band drop go live tomorrow for Earth Day at 10 a.m. ET / 7 a.m. PT on Samsung.com.
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After 25 years covering the technology industry, Jeremy Kaplan is a familiar face in the media world. As Content Director for TechRadar, he oversees product development and quality. He was formerly Editor in Chief of Digital Trends, where he transformed a niche publisher into one of the fastest growing properties in digital media. Before that, he spent half a decade at one of the largest news agencies in the world, and cut his teeth in magazine business, long before the birth of the iPhone. In 2019, he was named to the FOLIO: 100, which honors publishing professionals making an industry-wide impact.