Bits and pieces of sustainable cell phone manufacturing are slowly coming together. First came the solar-powered phones, and now Sprint and Samsung are unveiling a biodegradable handset that is 80% recyclable and comes with a 40% corn-based plastic cover. Peter Ha over at MobileCrunch thinks it isn’t enough, complaining that “No company is making it easier for anyone to “go green” and buying a
cell phone that’s made with recyclable materials doesn’t do anything
for the environment. You’re still plugging it in to charge and they’re
still churning them out in the same factory as their other phones.” The latter statement is true enough, but the $50 Reclaim phone does deserve some credit.
In addition to being the first cell phone sold in the U.S. to be made of bioplastic materials, the Reclaim ditches a paper manual for a virtual one and comes with a charger that is 12 times more energy-efficient than standard chargers. So yes, you’re still plugging the phone in to charge, but you’re also sucking up much less juice than most other cell phone-wielding consumers.
Sprint’s phone is nearly free of commonly used toxic materials like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brominated flame retardant. And the company is donating $2 from each sale to the Nature Conservancy’s Adopt an Acre Program.
Are there flaws with the phone? Of course. Ideally it would be completely free of all toxic materials and have a solar charging option. But these are improvements that Sprint and Samsung will probably make in the future–Samsung, in fact, has already developed a separate solar-powered phone. For now, we can be satisfied with incremental–yet significant–change in the right direction.