Samsung recently announced a range of eco-friendly phones, including models which use up to 50 percent bioplastic for their outer cases. Bioplastics are derived from renewable material like corn oil rather than petroleum. Samsung's new phones — the F268, bound for China, the W510 for Korea and the E200 Eco for European markets — are also free from two environmentally unfriendly chemicals: brominated flame retardants and PVC.
There's a growing trend for mobile phone manufacturers to flaunt their green credentials. In an earlier blog post, I wrote about Nokia demonstrating an eco-friendly remade phone at Mobile World Congress 2008. When Nokia and Samsung, the world's two biggest handset companies, turn their attention to the environmental impact of their products, you can be sure others will follow.
Their efforts are good news for consumers who want to make a green choice when buying a new phone. Unfortunately, such products typically cost more than their non-green counterparts, which makes them unsuitable for developing markets, where price is a major factor when it comes to choosing a phone. But as the environmental cost of traditional materials mounts, further advances in eco-friendly manufacturing will drive down prices and bring greener devices to developing markets.
All manufacturers have to make further inroads into producing eco-friendly products by changing their manufacturing processes. From their public announcements, Nokia and Samsung seem to be leading this move. However, Sony Ericsson achieved the highest score in Greenpeace's annual "Guide to Greener Electronics". It was commended for its plans to phase out toxic chemicals, although it has a way to go on recycling. Nokia scored well for its use of renewable energy and for its efforts in reducing harmful chemicals. Samsung was fourth, which is a strong showing, given its score incorporates the company's other consumer electronics, like TVs and memory chips, which perhaps make it harder to gain top marks.
Manufacturers should be applauded for developing their green credentials and seeking to learn lessons from experiments with renewable materials. The mobile industry is currently producing a billion phones a year, so any reduction in harmful plastics and chemicals must be a good thing.