Wilhelm Marschall, Pivet’s chief technology officer who has been researching the Toto-Toa material for the past four years, says it has been validated by Intertek, an international product testing and certification company, and has been tested to the ASTM D5511 and ISO 15985 standard test methods. These laboratory tests reproduced landfill conditions and found that after six months, a little more than 25 percent of the Toto-Toa-embedded thermoplastic polyurethane and polycarbonate, respectively, biodegraded.
“The test data shows a consistent trend in biodegradation and if we take that trend and extrapolate it, we are able to predict that in a landfill environment, the material should fully biodegrade in under two years,” Marschall says.
Better yet, Marschall says that unlike some compostable plastics like polylactic acid (PLA) or polybutylene adipate terephthalate (PBAT), the Toto-Toa material doesn’t require a controlled environment to start biodegrading. And as Toto-Toa is bonded with the plastic, he claims the material doesn’t leave microplastics behind after the biodegradation process. Microplastics are everywhere, from the ocean and rainfall to humans and even babies, though it’s unclear exactly how harmful the pollutants are to our health.
To highlight the Toto-Toa material and its eco-friendly benefits, Pivet is partnering with The Ocean Agency, a non-profit organization that promotes ocean conservancy, and whose work is highlighted in the Netflix documentary, Chasing Coral. Starting today with World Ocean Day, a portion of every Ocean Blue Pivet Aspect case sold will go to the agency to support ocean conservation.
It’s a part of a broader outreach initiative from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development that kicked off this year, of which The Ocean Agency is a partner. The initiative, better known as the Ocean Decade, aims to foster and strengthen ocean research, conservation, collaboration, and management to encourage sustainable use of its resources and reverse the ocean’s declining health.
“The idea is to put a spotlight on the ocean—it’s the biggest global issue with the least support—at a governmental level in terms of sustainable development goals,” says Richard Vevers, founder and CEO of The Ocean Agency. “It’s really about raising awareness and support for action, especially at the government level.”
The Ocean Agency isn’t your typical charity. It partners with businesses to raise awareness for ocean conservation, like its 2014 Street View project with Google, which brought specialized 360-degree cameras underwater to capture coral reefs in stunning detail for anyone to view. By partnering with brands, Vevers says the agency is able to fund its various programs, such as raising ocean literacy, campaigning for ocean protection, and developing new camera technology for surveilling water environments.
“Companies have the power, they have the audience,” he says. “It’s really when you get brands on board that governments take notice. That’s why it’s so important that conservation organizations work with business. Often it’s seen that you can’t work with business because business is a problem and I absolutely believe that is totally incorrect. Business is where innovation happens; business is where the influence happens. If we’re going to have mainstream support, we’re going to need to work with business.”
Pivet’s iPhone 12 Aspect case uses the Toto-Toa material and its new Ocean Blue color is inspired by corals that glow blue, yellow, or purple to survive underwater heatwaves due to climate change. Later this year and in the years following, Pivet plans to release more Ocean Blue cases and products while continuing to donate a portion of the proceeds to The Ocean Agency.
Biodegradable plastics and microbes that consume plastics are a hot research area, and Pivet is far from the only company working on solutions. Most recently, a startup called Polymateria created a plastic cling film, intended for uses like packaging, that can break down within a year and also be recycled. In 2020, researchers discovered super-enzymes that can degrade plastic bottles six times more quickly than before.
“The technology has been around for a long time, but through testing, I’ve managed to find the right balance of ingredients and the right balance of plastics,” Marschall says. “You can’t just make any plastic biodegrade, you have to tailor the ingredients or the technology to a specific plastic type. It’s like baking a cake. Everyone’s got the same ingredients, but because of your ratios and know-how, you can have a cake that tastes better than somebody else’s cake.”