As stakeholders and governments are striving to lessen the environmental impact of mobile phones, mobile phone producers are moving to meet the demands of an eco-conscious society.
Mobile phone use has grown rapidly with subscriptions surpassing 4 billion by end 2008 according to International Telecommunications Union (ITU) figures. Market research organisation Gartner estimates 1.22 billion handsets were sold in 2008. Mobile phone manufacturers are now introducing models which reduce their environmental impact.
The European Commission Integrated Product Policy (IPP) pilot project on mobile phones evaluated the environmental impact of mobile phones throughout their life cycle. The project involved manufacturers, operators, government organisations and environmental interest groups.
The final report called measures which include: an environmental index for mobile phones similar to the energy-efficiency index for white goods; and campaigns to encourage users to adopt sustainable habits, such as unplugging chargers and responsible end-of-life disposal. Phone manufacturer Nokia estimates that if only 10% of the world’s mobile phone users unplugged chargers after use, enough energy would be saved to power 60 000 European homes annually.
The EU has taken a significant step towards reducing waste by convincing mobile phone producers to harmonise chargers. The move announced in June 2009 followed a request from the Commission for a voluntary commitment, negating the need for legislation. Consumers will benefit from lower prices, as this reusability will mean new phones will not have to come with new chargers – preventing old chargers becoming electronic waste.