Mobile phone industry cleans up act in new green initiative

Mobile phone makers and network operators have committed themselves to a new green programme that aims to reduce the environmental impact of their products.

Mobile phone makers and network operators have committed themselves to a new green programme that aims to reduce the environmental impact of their products.

The group, led by Nokia, the world’s biggest maker of mobile phones, was created as part of a European Commission pilot project looking at how different industries could work with stakeholder groups to reduce the environmental impact of their products throughout their lifecycle.
Nokia proposed the mobile phone sector to the Commission. Other members of the voluntary group are Motorola, Panasonic, France Telecom/Orange, Vodafone, TeliaSonera, Intel, Epson, Spansion and Umicore. Big Nokia rival Sony Ericsson is not part of the scheme.

The industry group of firms have been joined by environmental experts from the WWF, the Finnish Environmental Institute, the UK's Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the European Consumers' Organisation (BEUC).
The group has agreed upon a series of new initiatives to reduce the environmental impact of mobile phones.These include reducing energy consumption, eliminating the use of specific materials of concern, improving the number of phones collected through take-back schemes and recycled, and giving consumers more environmental information about products.
Veli Sundbäck, Nokia executive vice president of corporate relations and responsibility, said, “By working together with environmental groups we have been able to find new ways to make improvements at each stage of a mobile phone's lifecycle, from when it is made right through to how it can be recycled. We are now committed to turning these ideas into action and maintaining a long-term commitment to this issue.”
To reduce the energy consumption of mobile phones the manufacturers have agreed to take action by equipping phones with reminders to unplug chargers once the battery is recharged. Nokia plans to have these alerts in new phones by the middle of next year.
Nokia estimates that if this measure led to only 10% of the world's mobile phone users turning off the electricity supply to the chargers after use, this would save enough energy in one year to power 60,000 European homes annually.
The group has also agreed to go beyond current regulatory standards and eliminate or reduce additional hazardous materials used in manufacturing, including certain flame retardants and phthalates.
The mobile operators will work with manufacturers and the other stakeholders to increase the amount of used or unwanted phones that are brought back by consumers for recycling.

Over the next two years the group will look at the range of existing recycling schemes operated around the world and identify which work most successfully and why.

They will also pilot the use of incentive schemes in a number of different markets around the world to understand how these can be used to improve collection rates. The most successful schemes and incentives will be identified and shared across the industry.
The group has also agreed to provide more information and guidance to consumers about the environmental performance of mobile phones, helping them to make more informed purchasing choices.

Matthew Wilkinson, policy adviser at WWF International, said, “We will continue our stakeholder involvement in the project, and look forward to the sector delivering on its commitments.”

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