Mobile phones are not biodegradable. They contain small amounts of potentially harmful substances such as cadmium, lithium, among others, in their batteries which, if not managed properly, can damage the environment.
D Shivakumar, VP and managing director, Nokia India, told Business Standard: "We will be using biodegradable phone covers, recyclable battery designs that use less harmful toxic materials and energy efficient accessories for all our forthcoming phones. Already, we have eliminated the use of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) in all our phones."
In markets like the US, Nokia encloses a pre-addressed, postage-paid envelope in sales packs, providing customers an easy method for returning used products for recycling, at no cost to them.
"The consumer simply places the contents in the bag and then puts it in their mailbox. We are evaluating similar refurbishment processes for India, which is the second-largest telecom market," added Shivakumar.
Nokia uses biomaterials, such as polylactic acid (PLA) plastics with plant or other biomass-based modifiers that help reduce the use of non-renewable materials. An additional bonus is that the energy required to produce PLA "" from raw material to plastic pellet "" is minimal.
Elastomers based on biomaterials can be used as rubber-like materials to seal off the battery case. Nokia's Eco Sensor concept is rooting for the phone and detector units that will be optimised for lower energy consumption than phones in 2007 in both the manufacturing process and use. Alternative energy sources, such as solar power, will fuel the sensor unit's power usage.
Nokia is also investing in green bins across all its priority dealer centres, where customers can drop their old phones, and plans to extend this service across all Nokia centres. It had earlier launched its first eco-friendly phone, the 3110, which is claimed to be more around 65 per cent recyclable. "The green phones, which we will launch this year, will be introduced across all price ranges," said Shivakumar.
The company is also aiming to reduce amount of energy consumed by mobile chargers. "We are also hopeful of reducing the no load power consumption "" the power wasted when a charger is left in a live power socket "" by a further 50 per cent by 2010."
Nokia will also be focusing on training and awareness programmes designed to ensure that those working in care centres operated on behalf of Nokia take-back programme can advise consumers on recycling issues.
There have been similar attempts by other researchers and companies too. A revolutionary biodegradable phone cover exhibited by researchers in London contained a sunflower seed. The cover, when biodegrades in compost, releases important nutrients that nurse the growing sunflower seedling.
For instance, biodegradable plastic "" developed by Sony "" is a polylactic acid derived from natural sugars extracted from corn starch. It comprises around 60 per cent of the outer surface area of the phone's case and battery cover. And a revolutionary biodegradable phone cover exhibited by researchers in London contained a sunflower seed.
They used a biodegradable polymer as the mobile phone cladding and implanted a sunflower seed inside. The cover, when biodegrades in compost, releases important nutrients that nurse the growing sunflower seedling.
Incidentally, Nokia missed the top spot in this year's Greenpeace 'Guide to Greener Electronics', while Motorola rose from the 14th to 12th position. "Testing of Motorola's take-back programme by Greenpeace revealed improvements in Motorola's take-back service in the Philippines, Thailand, and India," note Greenpeace findings.
With around 10 such take-back stores in India, according to Motorola website, the company encourages consumers to drop Motorola products into an EcoMoto take-back bin from where authorised contractors collect and transport these items to approved recycling facilities.
Greenpeace ranks electronics companies based on toxic chemicals use and e-waste regulations. Nokia is targeting to have all new products launched after the end of 2009, free of restricted flame retardants (all brominated and chlorinated compounds and antimony trioxide).