Nokia hopes for biodegradable phones in few years
HELSINKI - The worlds largest cellphone maker Nokia said yesterday it hoped to develop a phone with biodegradable parts within a few years time.
Its mobile phone division has already run tests on biodegradable clip-on covers, but the polymer materials were not up to scratch, Nokia Principal Scientist Kari Hiltunen said yesterday.
"Our quality demands cant be fulfilled with todays biodegradable polymers... but development work continues with chosen partners," Hiltunen told journalists.
When asked how soon he expected Nokia to find a suitable plastics mix to build biodegradable phone parts, Hiltunen declined to speculate, saying: "It might be tomorrow, but it might be in two to three years."
Polymers, which are chemical chains such as plastics, are used both in cellphone packages as well as in actual phone covers - for example, a Nokia 6110 model consists of almost 40 percent plastic.
Cellphone waste is also on the rise, as people tend to change their mobile phones every two years and throw away their old ones, according to Salla Ahonen, who deals with environmental issues at Nokias research centre in Helsinki.
Apart from meeting demand for environmentally friendly products, success in its biodegradable tests might also help it to reduce its tax bill, Hiltunen said.
Last year about 405 million phones were sold and this year the figure is expected to be similar, with about half of the phones sold to people who already own one.
Nokias main aim was to recycle or reuse all possible parts in cellphones, but for some materials this has not been possible, with a compost the end destination.
A crucial demand has been that the company should be able to use the same machinery to build cellphones with biodegradable plastics as it uses for the current ones.
Long storage life, good mechanical and thermal properties and the possibility to blend and decorate the material easily were also essential qualities, Hiltunen said.
Testing a biodegradable clip-on cover for the 5110 model, Nokia researchers used regular moulds and a chemical substance based on lactic acids. While the mixture generated excellent surface properties, its ability to withstand heat was not good enough.
But even though the covers did not pass Nokia tests, after six weeks in the compost they had decomposed fairly well, Hiltunen said.
Story by Anna Peltola
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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