Cell Phone Makers Half-Hearted On Green Initiatives

We’re all very aware of how cell phone companies are claiming to make “greener” phones — less toxic parts, more recyclable, using less energy. But according to a report out from ABI Research this morning, aside from the efforts of a couple large companies, most attempts at selling green phones are not being deployed at a very large scale.

ABI says while Samsung and Nokia have the scale to sell green phones economically, the majority of cell phone makers’ green phone intentions often fade “like a wireless signal in an underground parking lot.” Mainly, cell phone companies’ efforts are aimed at compliance (likely with environmental regulations like RoHS) and a “trickling down of proven green elements” for the rest of the product pipeline, ABI says. And even worse than making green products that fall short, ABI says that less than 5 percent of the cell phones shipped globally every year are recycled or disposed of sustainably.

There are a few issues with the greening of the cell phone market. While consumers say they will buy more sustainable cell phones — the report cites a Nokia study that says 76 percent of survey responders are more likely to buy phones from companies they view as “environmentally responsible” — there’s very little data on the actual green buying habits of consumers. Saying you support green products, and potentially paying more for those products, are very different issues — particularly in a recession.

And while compliance may drive foreign markets, in the U.S., there are a hodge podge of mostly voluntary green standards concerning electronics. More standards are needed to help cell phone companies and consumers figure out what defines “green phones,” and potentially something like the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) could help set the performance criteria for cell phone design and production.

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