Recycled plastics and reductions in packaging and manufacturing solvents make handsets more environmentally friendly, says a leading manufacturer of mobile phones.

Mobile phone company Sony Ericsson will unveil two “green” handsets tomorrow with a carbon footprint 15% lower than current models. By cutting packaging, using recycled plastics and reducing the use of solvents in the paints, the electronics company claims to have made the handsets more environmentally friendly.

The new phones, the C901 GreenHeart and the Naite, are part of what Sony Ericsson says will be a revised portfolio of environmentally friendly phones to be rolled out in the next two years. It is also part of the company’s wider mission to cut 20% of its total carbon emissions by 2015.

“Sony Ericsson has worked continuously to become an industry leader in the area of removing harmful substances from the core of its phones and in creating industry leading energy efficiency chargers,” said Dick Komiyama, president of Sony Ericsson. .”

Sony Ericsson sells around 100m phones a year globally and wants to have a series of green improvements in all its phones by the end of 2011. More than 31m phones were bought in the UK in 2008.

Most of the CO2 reductions in the two new handsets come from a significant reduction in the amount of paper that comes with the phone. The packaging is smaller and the user manual has been replaced with an electronic version contained on the phone itself.

“The major benefit to the environment is the reduction of paper weight in transportation,” said Mats Pellback-Scharp, head of the corporate sustainability office at Sony Ericsson. “Compared to the same product from the year before, we save 90% of the paper shipped to each customer. That’s 3kg of CO2, 15% of the carbon footprint of the complete phone.”

For older phones from the company, the box and manual weighed in at 550g. This has been reduced now to 42g and means that in 1m phones, Sony Ericsson will save 350 tonnes of paper, around 13,000 trees or 7,500 cubic metres of wood.

Inside the box, there are no plastic bags to wrap the various components and 80% of the hard plastics used on the phone are recycled. The company has also halved the amount of solvents needed for the paints by using water-soluble inks.

Gerrard Fisher, programme manager for sustainable products at the Waste & Resources Action Programme (Wrap) said: “This is an encouraging development and we are seeing an exciting new trend in the mobile phone market, with Nokia’s Evolve phone and many Motorola phones also incorporating recycled plastics. We welcome the introduction and promotion of hi-tech products with recycled content in the marketplace. It is good news that companies are considering the development of life cycle impacts, as well as promoting innovation that reduces the environmental impact of product packaging.”

He added that Wrap was about to start work assessing the life cycles of mobile phones, to help identify areas where the impacts of these products could be reduced.

The new C901 will be released later this month and the Naite will come out in September. The latter phone will also come with a new low-power charger that operates at 30 milliwatts (mW), where currently the chargers are rated at 100mW.

Overall, Sony Ericsson also announced a commitment to reduce the company’s carbon footprint by 20% by 2015. By the same date, it will also reduce total greenhouse gas emissions by 15% from the full life cycle of its products, including mining, production and use by consumers.

The company also wants to increase its recycling scheme which takes used phones from consumers for use in recycling. It wants to collect one million phones every year from 2011.

Iza Kruszewska, toxics campaigner at Greenpeace UK welcomed the new phones from Sony Ericsson and said that the company had a good record in reducing its use of harmful chemicals. She also said however that the company should increase the number of its recycling points around the world. “They do mention their ambition to increase the number of collection points and take-back schemes they have globally but they are well behind Nokia on this.”

By Alan