From talking bags to SoRPlas: Mobile companies going green

The average lifespan of a cellphone is around 18 months and according to the June 2013 report published by Electronics Take Back, the United States alone has generated about 152 million mobile devices as electronic waste or e-waste in 2010. By 2014, Gartner’s research predicts that over 1.9 billion mobile phones will be shipped globally. If we look at these figures, mobile phone manufacturing and waste are quite staggering and alarming.

With the rising demand for smarter devices, mobile manufacturers are scrambling to release new models annually. Since landfills are basically being filled with broken or old electronic gadgets, how can these tech companies help lessen technology’s impact on the environment?

Talking bags and upcycled mobile phones

One innovative example is a collection from UK-based designer Sean Miles. He wanted to add something new to his vintage fashion accessories line—designer hand bags. However, he wanted a unique collection which people can really talk about. So, he revealed “Bags That Talk”.

He combined old cellphones given by customers of O2 for their recycling programme with classic ladies’ handbags from Alexander McQueen, Celine, and Chloe. For men, Miles incorporated a recycled phone on a Mulberry messenger bag.

Bill Eyres, O2 Recycle’s head, said that “we’ve all got a role to play in making sure that old handsets – and gadgets in general – live on even when we’ve finished with them”.  

“Whether functioning phones are sent on so that others can make use of them or they are stripped for their metals which can be used again, there is a pressing environmental need to think of them as a resource that we need to recycle responsibly rather than dispose of,” he added.

This project is part of the company’s Think Big environment initiative, which offers cash payments to those who want to turn in their old phones, tablets, and other electronics.

Apple’s path for a sustainable future

The Cupertino-based mobile manufacturer has also taken steps to create a more sustainable future with their environmental initiatives. Their goal is to power all their facilities with 100 per cent renewable energy, such as hydro, solar, wind, and even geothermal. In fact, the company is already using biogas-powered fuel cells and solar photovoltaic systems at their headquarters.

Greenpeace ranked Nokia as the World’s Greenest Phone Manufacturer, thanks to their use of renewable energy and phone collection programmes from around 100 countries. In line with their Natural Resources Policy, the company ensures that they will only use 100 per cent certified renewable materials by 2015.

Their Data Center in Maiden, North Carolina is now using the largest privately-owned solar array in the United States. Also, with their new Airport Express’ enclosure, Apple combined recycled PC-ABS plastic and bio-based polymers to manufacture it.

As the company faces the future, they’re integrating sound Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) management practices to continue delivering innovative products, which will have a minimal impact on the environment. 

Nokia’s natural resources policy

Greenpeace ranked Nokia as the World’s Greenest Phone Manufacturer, thanks to their use of renewable energy and phone collection programmes from around 100 countries. In line with their Natural Resources Policy, the company ensures that they will only use 100 per cent certified renewable materials by 2015.

Also, five out of seven Nokia factories have reached 100 per cent waste utilization, which reduced the manufacturer’s total waste production to 30 per cent from 2011. This is due to their choice of suppliers who offer effective solutions for waste management.

Nokia, in addition, made sure that their employees segregate waste efficiently inside their offices. Now, over 41 per cent of the energy used in their plants is from renewable energy resources.

Sony’s zero-environmental footprint goal 

The American Chemistry Council or ACC named Sony’s Electronics Recycling Team as one of the winners in the 2012 Plastics Recycling Awards. Sony was able to develop a new and durable resin made from recycled polycarbonate materials. Called the SoRPlas, the company aims to use this new product to help reduce emissions and conserve raw materials in their products’ manufacturing process.

Partnering with the Japan Natural Energy Co Ltd, Sony also signed a three-year biomass heat generation consignment to purchase Green Heat Certificates and at least 133,333 gigajoules annually. This landmark energy contract is the largest so far in Japanese history, and it will translate to around 8,000 tons of reduced CO2 for the company’s facilities.

As tech companies spearhead different environmental initiatives, more manufacturers must also commit to reduce hazardous materials on their products, replace paper manuals with electronic ones, and ensure that all the parts in their mobile devices can be recycled or upcycled.

We, as consumers, must also do our share to minimise our carbon footprint. We can start by donating our old electronic devices to these companies, so they can recycle it properly. Hopefully, all our efforts will help make our planet a greener place to live in.

Sookie Lioncourt is an upcoming writer who has a great passion for green technology and the usage of eco-friendly gadgets. Connect with her on Twitter @sookielioncourt

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