Mobile industry aims for greener phones

A group of phone makers and operators have joined in a new initiative to improve the environmental impact of mobile phones.

If just a small portion of the world's mobile phone users unplugged their charger when the battery is full, it could save enough electricity to power thousands of homes. So said Nokia on Thursday, as it unveiled a new industry group that aims to make mobile phones more environmentally friendly.

The group also includes Motorola, France Telecom, Vodafone Group, TeliaSonera and others. It was created as part of a European Commission project aimed at uniting members of different industries to work on reducing the environmental impact of their products.

Members of the new group will try to educate people more about how they can reduce the environmental impact of using their cell phones. For example, manufacturers will start displaying a reminder on phones to unplug chargers once the battery is charged. If only 10 percent of phone users did that, they would save enough energy to power 60,000 European homes each year, Nokia estimates.

The companies will also reduce the hazardous materials they use beyond what current legislation requires. One example is Nokia's decision to stop using any components in its phones that contain a certain type of environmentally harmful chemical flame retardant.

The operators will also increase the number of used phones that are returned for recycling. They'll examine existing recycling schemes around the world and identify successful ones. They also plan to try out incentive initiatives to determine if they might improve recycling rates.

Environmental organizations including World Wildlife Fund, the Finnish Environmental Institute, the European Consumers' Organization and the U.K.'s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are also part of the new initiative.

The European Union recently instituted new regulations on the types of hazardous materials that can be included in electronic devices. Most manufacturers were able to alter their products to comply with the new laws but Palm Inc. in July stopped shipping what was its latest smart phone, the Treo 650, to Europe because it didn't meet the regulations.

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Nancy Gohring

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