The 1 billion plastic phone case problem

Anders Ankarlid
7 min readJan 27, 2022


SUMMARY: The amount of plastic scattered around the world is somewhat terrifying, but have you thought about the global impact of plastic phone cases? Over one billion plastic phone cases are sold each year, it’s hardly a small market, and currently, there is nothing stopping it from becoming even more detrimental to the environment.

Learn all about our research on the ever increasing market hence landfill problem, which no one seems to want to talk about. And yes, you will find your countries plastic pollution due to phone cases.

The cell phone. Quite an innovation. And hasn’t it made our partially remote work life a lot smoother?

And yes, since the iPhone launched in 2007, it’s the everyday product that you use the most.

There are around 6.37 billion smartphone users in the world, with the population being 7.9 billion that means 80.63% of the population have a smartphone.

If you are anything like me, you protect your 1500 EUR investment with a phone case. With almost every smartphone comes a phone case.

In the US alone, 79% of smartphone users have cases to protect their phones.

Try now to visualise how many phone cases are floating around the world, in shops, around the house and sadly, in landfills?

Millions? Well, no billions.

3000 factories are part of the phone case problem

A phone case is someone’s most seen accessory and has over time also become a fashion statement. This means people buy multiple cases just to match certain outfits, increasing the already high demand for phone cases.

The market has grown immensely, with China alone having more than 3,000 factories dedicated to manufacturing mobile cases and other phone accessories.

A huge market, yet not many people focus on the environmental impact of this or are unaware of the impact of buying a plastic case.

Or that’s vague. People don’t pay attention.

You are most likely aware of the environmental impact of plastic bottles and plastic bags, but the impact of plastic phone cases have been lost in translation.

Despite new EU regulations banning single-use plastic in 2021 (this includes the 10 most common plastic items found on beaches), more needs to be done on plastic items.

Here are some numbers that will get your mind tilt:

  • On average, each user changes their phone every 21 months
  • Each phone case is roughly 20 grams of plastic
  • Each blended plastic (more on this in a second) case takes 500 years to decompose!

The one billion phone case problem

So, over one billion plastic phone cases are sold every year.

That’s a lot of virgin plastics. Now let’s do some math, based on the amount of the population using a smartphone.

First, let’s start with the number of plastic phone cases sold each year per country. This is just plastic, I haven’t included other harmful materials like leather, vegan leather, and pure silicone cases. The latter two is also plastics.

Next up, I’ve calculated how much plastic per market this would total.

A quite simple calculation, the number and multiplying the number of phone cases sold per year by 20 (the average weight of plastic phone case is 20 grams), then converted this number into KG.

Estimated kilogram plastic used per year for phone cases alone per market

No surprise here that China is at the top of the list, but don’t see their large figure and think the rest aren’t so bad. Norway’s plastic phone cases weigh the equivalent of 8 full-size male elephants. Germany’s plastic phone cases weigh the same amount as 37 Ford 4WD’s. 37.

If you don’t think that seems a lot, pick up your phone case. Notice how light it is? Okay, now try to visualise how many phone cases that would take to weigh the same as just that one elephant or one car.

Then another scary fact. Over a lifetime one person starting from the age of 16 until they were 70 years old, one person would have bought around 27 phone cases in their lifetime. One you. Or one me.

Lastly, most plastic phone cases aren’t recycled, instead, they are sent to landfill or as in my home country, Sweden, they are burnt.

So, here I have compared the amount of plastic produced from UK phone cases to their total mismanaged plastic waste in 2019.

Although it doesn’t look like a huge addition to mismanaged waste, the fact you can see it makes a dent in some of the total landfill waste shows it’s an issue worth raising.

That’s a lot of phone cases rotting away in landfills across the world yearly.

Unfortunately, this market is nowhere near slowing down. According to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) and PwC, by 2022 the number of smartphone users in India will reach 859 million, an 84% increase from 2017.

And globally, we still change our phones every second or third year.

The other big threat, which we haven’t calculated on here, is the greater availability of fashionable plastic cases, this is increasing the demand for customers to buy more than one case, thus furthering the environmental impact per person and in total.

Plastic phone cases are a one-time thing?

But hold my beer. Can’t a plastic phone case be recycled?

Well, like not really.

You see, the absolute majority of phone cases are made with various types of plastic, these are then blended together which means they can’t actually be recycled or used again.

Something is soft on the side of the case, something hard is on the back of the cell phone and often is it covered with fleece or a felt on the inside. This is called blended fractions of materials, and it’s a nightmare for recycling.

But again, it does not stop there.

These phone cases do also release microplastics, causing a massive increase in microplastics pollution around the world. Sadly, you can now find microplastics all the way from the deepest parts of the oceans to the summit of Mount Everest. And don’t forget about our oceans.

Plastic phone cases causes detrimental effects on the environment

To put this into perspective, this issue with blended materials is not only for a phone case. In fact, 79% of plastic that has been produced since the start of plastic production still exists in landfills today.

In Sweden, less than 10% of all plastic produced every year is recycled. It’s such a sad fact that we can never really say goodbye to plastic, our earth will always be polluted.

But how big is this problem?

Each year, 380 million tonnes of plastic is produced globally, to put that visually it’s the same weight as 2,700,000 blue whales.

Can we stop the plastic waste train?

Does it have to be this way? The short answer is NO.

You can choose to think consciously and buy from brands like ours. We avoid plastic at all costs.

No plastic, no problemo!

Our mobile case is made 100% from a local plant, designed and made in Sweden. In a nutshell: Arvid, our favourite farmer who has an organic farm in Eskilstuna, sells us the surplus of his linseed plants to us. And tada, we injection mould it making a plant based phone case.

Welcome to a circular world

If circularity doesn’t tickle your fancy, we made a graph on the CO2 emission of a plant-based case vs a plastic case:

And guess what?

1 plastic phone case emits the same amount of CO2 as 920 of our plant-based A Good Mobile Cases during its production and lifecycle.

920, yes you got it right.

That’s a lot of phone cases. And a lot of plastic we easily can avoid.

The era of plastic must come to an end

It’s just time for a final goodbye to all those plastic cases which are ending up in landfills.

It’s not a hard decision to make for you. But it’s a conscious one.

And lord, we need this change if we want to have a chance to leave this planet in some sort of acceptable condition for our kids.

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Feel free to reach out to me if you’re interested in this topic:

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