Flax supergrain adds another bragging right to its arsenal of eco-friendly products
When Jeremy Lang started making smartphone cases out of flax straw waste instead of plastic, he coined the word flaxstic.
It’s the perfect description for a plastic alternative that’s tough, compostable and recyclable.
“Every piece of (petroleum-based) plastic ever made is still around. It won’t break down for thousands of years,” said the Pela Case co-founder.
“And only eight per cent of plastics are recycled. So, it was time to come up with a solution.”
The company started in Lang’s hometown of Saskatoon, but both both the office and manufacturing is relocating to Kelowna.
Pela is taking a swath of office space at the downtown Okanagan Centre for Innovation and will hire 40 sales and marketing, customer service, product development and social-media workers by the end of next year.
“My wife and I have wanted to move to Kelowna for years for the weather and the outdoor recreation,” said Lang.
“And I’m sure we’ll attract workers with similar values. Plus, (the University of British Columbia – Okanagan) is there to help us with research and development, and the innovation centre is there to help a start-up tech business like ours.”
While Pela cases are a manufactured product, it’s considered a tech company because of the innovative materials used as well as its e-commerce platform.
However, Pela is also getting into selling in retail stores, the first being the 62-store Sunrise Records chain.
With the average user replacing their phone every two years with a different model, that’s a lot of electronics and plastics that are simply discarded.
Lang is an agrologist and environmental consultant who’s worked mostly for the oil and gas industry on site cleanup.
After meeting Matt Bertulli and Brad Pederson at an event for entrepreneurs in California, he decided Pela could be a full-time venture.
Bertulli is an e-commerce expert with Demac Media and Pederson knows manufacturing from developing Tech 4 Kids toys.
All of a sudden, Lang’s idea for an environmentally friendly phone case was commercialized with e-commerce and manufacturing hotshots on board.
Farmers in Saskatchewan and Manitoba grow flax for its oil seeds. The leftover straw is typically burned but Pela buys the flax straw from processing plants before that stage and makes it into a starch-based biopolymer.
Flax straw has natural shock-absorbing qualities, perfect for protecting smartphones that are continually dropped and dinged. And they’re recyclable: The company accepts old Pela cases to compost or grind up to make more flaxstic.
An array of iPhone and Android cases for all models are sold online at PelaCase.com (100,000 have been sold online since 2015). Three dollars from each sale is donated to charities ranging from Surfrider for Plastic Free Oceans and Amnesty International to the Red Cross and Electronic Frontier Foundation.