Friday, 15 January 2010

A Mobile Quandary

Are mobile phones anti-environment?

They kind of scream modern corporate living and they certainly contain all sorts of nasty things that are bad to dig up and bad to dispose of.

But I'm not sure I could live without one in my current lifestyle. Having it there in my pocket makes me feel safe. If I get into trouble I can whip it out and phone someone to come and rescue me. Take all the snow last week, for example. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to attempt driving to work in it without my trusty communication tool. Except for the part where my current communication tool isn’t as trusty as I’d like it to be anymore.

Yes, I’ve decided: I need a new phone. But this, obviously, throws up all sorts of problems. Aside from the stuff that goes into making a new mobile phone there’s the packaging that it comes in, and then there’s the question of what to do with my old one.

‘Can you get phones that aren’t plastic?’ my trusty eco-friend, C, asked me yesterday when I mentioned my quandary.

No, is the simple answer. At least, not that I’m aware of.

But then I found Sony Ericsson and their ‘Green Heart’ eco-friendly range. Well, more eco friendly than your standard phone anyway. Not plastic-free, but made using recycled plastic. What a simple idea. As well as this, the use waterborne rather than solvent based paint; they have engineered a low energy charger and a low energy screen; and the phones are 100% PVC free, 100% beryllium free, and 99.9% free of bromine and antimony.

Sounds pretty good to me. But I’m afraid it’s in my nature to question it: how much of this ‘greatness’ is marketing? It’s easy to trump up the bits that sound good, whilst glossing over the rest, and leaving out what they don’t need to tell you. This phone is 100% PVC free, but how much PVC is there in your average phone normally? And what if, by virtually removing beryllium and antimony, they have had to use something else instead that is actually more harmful?

Maybe I’m just a cynic, I don’t know. Maybe I should learn a little trust. The good thing is that at least they’re trying, at least they’re thinking about it. And I definitely like the recycled plastic part of it – it’s such an obvious, but largely ignored, concept. And the thought I’m ultimately left with is: If Sony Ericsson can do it, why don’t more companies do it? And not just with mobile phones...

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