Fully biodegradable phone cases from a remarkable Taiwanese material technology company

‘Protect your technology, protect the planet, protect individuality’: RHINOSHIELD’s vision

RHINOSHIELD, a Taiwanese company radically reducing the environmental impact of our phone cases, was founded over a decade ago by brothers Eric Wang (Co-Founder and CEO) and Ray Wang (Co-Founder and VP of Product Development and Supply Chain).

Their personal commitment to the environment is woven throughout their business story. Ray Wang described the moment of taking his daughter along for a beach clean-up they were leading last year for their over 500-strong team of employees: “At the end of my speech to our whole company I called out her name, in front of all of my staff, and made this promise to her. I said, ‘Ning, you’ve asked me what I do, and I want to tell you: my job is to work with this group of people here and to find solutions to our plastic trash problem.’ At the end of the day, this is what we believe in.’”

To tackle this issue in a concrete way, their work started with the realization that standard phone cases represent a huge problem from a plastic waste standpoint.

Depending on the source, it is estimated that anywhere from 500 million to 1 billion phone cases are made per year, and nearly all of them are made from non-recycled petroleum-based plastic.

Equally concerning, most cases are made from multiple polymer types, which makes it difficult — and highly costly — to recycle.

Initially they created high quality, attractive phone cases that were made from 100% recyclable TPE mono-material, reusable over many life-cycles due to its low-degradation characteristics. They also developed technology to create full transparency for the consumer: ‘Trace your case’ QR codes tell you how many cases were made from the same material before it made its way into your case.

RHINOSHIELD and Soleic: transitioning towards the future of materials

The Wang brothers and their staff achieved rapid growth for RHINOSHIELD over a short time, but they also knew they wanted to push their commitment to sustainability even further. Here’s where Algenesis came in.

“100% biodegradability is the holy grail for materials,” said Ray. “We knew we could do more, and to solve the issue of plastic from the beginning.” This meant transitioning to materials that were fully biodegradable, and when they came across Soleic, they realized it provided the ideal technology for this transition.

“We see the past as dominated by petroleum-based products, the present by recycled products, but really we want to create products of the future, with circular, fully biodegradable materials. Soleic for us represents the future of materials,” said Ray.

Eric had studied material science engineering at University of Cambridge, so his approach was rigorous when doing his own review of the science and performance stats behind Soleic’s material.

“Algenesis stood out to us because their materials are proven and have peer-reviewed science to back them up,” confirmed Eric. “This allowed us to continue our commitment to the planet and to quality.”  

One of the big misconceptions they’re trying to prove wrong is the “perception that sustainable products have poor durability,” so it was especially important to them that Soleic TPU technology meet every performance standard.

“Partnering with Soleic researchers who study the future”

On a practical level, once Rhinoshield decided to work with Soleic Elastomer technology, it meant working with Soleic formulations engineers to modify TPU formulations, who sent new iterations of the pellets across to their factories in Taiwan from San Diego.

Ray is honest that the process has involved the challenges of hitting the perfect formulation for their specific needs. But they share a commitment to getting it right, and he was especially positive about the benefit of feeling aligned in values: “we share a common passion, and we’re all doing this for real.” This genuineness is backed up by their excitement of “partnering with Soleic researchers who study the future,” as he described it.

“Solving the plastics issue from the beginning”

Eric and Ray have many other projects on the horizon, including an ingenious new framework for plastic management that involves AI-driven ocean plastic collection (more news on that to come!). Most of all, they want to step out in front as pioneers within their culture and industry.

“Our next steps are to get the fully biodegradable phone case made with Soleic materials out into the market, and with that we hope we will help inspire other companies to make this choice as well — others who share the same vision and interest,” explained Eric.

“We want to be the example of the company that is thinking ahead, and solving the plastics issue from the beginning,” said Ray.

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