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Industry Watch
Mobile phone industry helps reduce greenhouse gas
photo credit: LG

Solar-powered handsets

Solar-powered mobile phones save on using energy that produces greenhouse-gas emissions during its generation. One of the latest models was announced by LG Electronics, of the Republic of Korea, on 12 October 2009. The LG GD510, or “Pop”, includes a solar battery cover. On the phone’s menu is an “eco-calculator” that can track how much CO2 emission has been saved by using the solar cell. The phone is made from materials that meet strict international environmental standards, and the packaging uses recycled paper.

The introduction of solar-powered mobile phones began as far back as 1997, when Nokia Corporation, of Finland, put on sale the “Nokia 1611” with a solar battery as an optional source of power. But it is 2009 that has seen a significant rise in the number of players starting to create such products. In February, another manufacturer from the Republic of Korea — Samsung Electronics — launched a model called “Blue Earth”. The phone includes a solar panel and uses material from recycled plastic bottles. It features a pedometer, with a program by which users can calculate the greenhouse-gas emissions they have saved by walking rather than taking motor transport. In March, the Japanese operator KDDI made available the “Solar Phone”, manufactured by Sharp Electronics, also of Japan. As well as incorporating a solar battery, the phone is waterproof and includes features designed for people playing sports.

Simpler, low-cost mobile phones that use solar power can be invaluable where electricity supplies are scarce and/or unreliable. In February, Chinese manufacturer ZTE Corporation announced that it had developed such a handset, the “Coral-200-Solar”. Launched in partnership with Caribbean operator, Digicell, the phone uses proprietary solar-power technology from Intivation, a company based in the Netherlands. Safaricom Limited, an operator based in Kenya, introduced the new ZTE phone in August 2009 — a first for Africa. It has the brand name “Simu ya Solar” and sells for some KES 3000, equivalent to about USD 40. As well as helping to close the digital divide, solar-powered mobile phones are combating climate change as connectivity spreads.

Orange UK launches recycling scheme

On 4 November 2009, the mobile phone operator Orange UK launched a new service that encourages people to recycle old mobile handsets, laptop computers and personal music players. Under the “Recycle and Reward” scheme anyone (not just the company’s subscribers) can take unwanted electronic equipment to an Orange store and receive cash in return. For example, depending upon the device’s condition, up to GBP 85 can be paid for a recycled Nokia N95 handset, or GBP 95 for a Samsung SCH 900, according to Orange. Electronic goods that have no monetary value are also accepted for recycling. The company estimates that two-thirds of households in the United Kingdom contain old mobile phones that are no longer in use, and the new scheme will help to reduce the amount of electronic goods sent to landfill sites.

Another way in which Orange UK is trying to help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions is by providing mini SIM cards for mobile phones. A trial introduction of the cards began in July 2009 — the first in Europe by a mobile operator. The mini SIMs halve the amount of waste associated with providing new cards, because two (rather than just one) can be embedded into the piece of plastic in which SIMs are delivered to the customer.

Trees planted, thanks to Vodafone customers

In the Czech Republic, the mobile phone operator Vodafone has begun planting trees in the Šumava National Park and the neighbouring protected landscape of Beskydy, in the South Bohemian region of the country along the border with Germany and Austria. A tree is planted for each subscriber who signs up for Vodafone’s free “On My Own” service for managing accounts online and from their handsets. As well as receiving a 20-per-cent discount on calls, users receive monthly bills electronically rather than on paper.

Vodafone has promised to plant at least 20 000 trees, which will come from varieties of beech, maple and spruce that occur naturally in the locality. In Šumava, the project will help with reforestation of an area that was damaged recently in a natural disaster. The Šumava mountain range is covered by the most extensive forest in Central Europe, which provides important habitats for rare animals such as lynx.


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