Samsung to Sell Corn-based Cell Phone

How does a company sell more cell phones in a cutthroat, competitive market? Launch new so-called “green” models. This morning Korean consumer electronics giant Samsung said at the World IT Show in Seoul that it will start selling two eco-friendly handsets this month. The first is the W510 (pictured on the left) which is made out of a corn-based bioplastic and doesn’t contain any heavy metals, like lead, mercury and cadmium.

This is Samsung’s first bioplastic phone, but Samsung is not the first big-name consumer electronics maker to work with the alt-material — in January Fujitsu touted a laptop with a bioplastic case at CES. And Nokia has the 3310 Evolve, which is made partly out of biomaterials.

While eliminating petroleum-based plastics is a good idea, by now we’re all very aware of how unsustainable corn is as a replacement for both fuel and plastics. We’re hoping Samsung’s later models will switch to a next-gen bioplastic, which will (hopefully) be more sustainable. Though we also understand the reasoning for testing out the market for bioplastic with widely available and cheap corn first.

Samsung’s other new green phone model is the F268 (pictured to the left), which the company says does not contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or brominated flame retardants (BFRs). Samsung is trying to stop using PVC and BFRs in all of its cell phones by 2010, and this is a good step in that direction.

Samsung has actually ranked very high for being a responsible and planet-loving consumer electronics maker. According to the latest “Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics,” from March, Samsung ranked among the highest with a 7.7 out of 10; it also received high marks for its PVC and BFR phase-out timeline. The company started selling PVC-free LCD panels last November, and only lost points on the Greenpeace ranking system for having an incomplete take-back and recycling program.

Samsung will start selling these phones this month in Korea and China. If you want one of these stateside, you’ll just have to wait.