A group of mobile manufacturers, network operators, suppliers, recyclers, consumer and environmental organisations, led by Nokia, has committed to improve the environmental performance of mobile phones and to do more to raise consumer awareness and participation in take-back and recycling.
The group 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 were Motorola, Panasonic Mobile Communications, France Telecom/Orange, Vodafone, TeliaSonera AB, Intel, Epson, Spansion and Umicore, and 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 amount of phones collected through take-back schemes and recycled, and giving consumers more environmental information about products.
Veli Sundback, Executive Vice-President Corporate Relations and Responsibility, Nokia, said, "Managing environmental performance is an important responsibility for the entire mobile sector. 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."
He added, "This project has also created valuable learnings for the Commission on effective policy and approaches to regulation, and we hope they will take these into account in the development of future environmental legislation."
Specific changes and actions the group has agreed to make include:
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.
Removing materials of concern
The group has agreed to take action to go beyond current regulatory standards and eliminate or reduce additional hazardous materials used in manufacturing including certain flame retardants and phthalates.
Nokia no longer use Brominated Flame Retardants (BFR) on new printed wiring boards used to make mobile phones. Nokia has also set the goal of ensuring that all new components used in its mobile phones are free of BFR by early next year, and its products have been free of PVC for the last year.
Improving the take-back and recycling of mobile phones
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 right across the industry.
More informed consumers
The group has agreed to provide more information and guidance to consumers about the environmental performance of mobile phones, helping them to make more informed purchasing choices. This initiative has begun by researching and understanding the specific information consumers require, and will then make this available on the products and at the point of purchase.
Commenting on the action plan, Matthew Wilkinson, Policy Adviser at WWF International, said, "WWF is pleased to have collaborated with industry on this initiative to try to secure - ahead of regulation - environmental benefits from the mobile phone sector. We will continue our stakeholder involvement in the project, and look forward to the sector delivering on its commitments."
Charlotte Grezo, Vodafone Director for Corporate Responsibility, said, "It is important that the mobile industry continues to provide ways for customers to return unwanted mobile phones. Customer involvement is key to our ongoing success and we are keen to try out innovative incentives in order to recover resources and minimise environmental impact."