I’m currently reviewing an iPhone 12 from Refurbed.ie. It’s an important thing to review in my eyes given that mobile phones are having a massive negative impact on our world. While refurbished phones will play a role in this future, so too will ensuring our brand new phones are as eco friendly as possible when we purchase them. From June, a new system will be rolled out and used by Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica, Telia Company and Vodafone to help shoppers understand how sustainable their phone options are.
The Eco Rating System
The idea of the Eco Rating labelling system is to help you assess the environmental impact of your new smartphone. This information will be available at point of sale. We’ve reached out to clarify what this means as for the system to be effective, it would need to be online and on the shop floor, given that phone boxes are stored securely “out the back”.
Phones from 12 mobile phone brands will be assessed by the Eco Rating system, with others expected to join later. For launch, you can expect to see the likes of Huawei, Nokia, OnePlus and Samsung amongst others, but no Apple as if yet I’m afraid.
The system itself is based on five stages of a phone’s life.
- Raw Materials
- Usage and Spare Parts
- End of life
Focusing on these points covers key areas from how gold is sourced for phone connectors to how easily a phone can be safely disposed of. Using information provided by device manufacturers, Eco Rating applies a consistent evaluation methodology equally and objectively across 19 different criteria, culminating in a rating spread across these points:
- Durability: The robustness of the device, the battery life and the guarantee period for the device and its components.
- Repairability: Covers the ease with which the device can be repaired, including mobile phone design and supporting activities that could increase the useful life of the product by improving its reparability, reusability and upgradability potential. A higher the score indicates how these aspects are supported.
- Recyclability: How well the device components can be recovered and disassembled, the provided information to allow it, and how well materials can be recycled.
- Climate efficiency: The greenhouse gas emissions of the device during its whole lifecycle. The better the score here, the lower the climate impact is.
- Resource efficiency: Assesses the impact caused by the amount of scarce raw materials required by the device (e.g. gold for the manufacturing of electronic components) towards the resources depletion; the better the score here, the lower the impact is towards the availability of materials.
Will The Eco Rating System Work?
It’s really hard to know if a system like this will work or not. For now, in Ireland anyway, just Vodafone will present this information. It may require someone like ComReg to drive it into being an industry standard. One thing is for sure. If the eco-rating system is presented properly in a Vodafone store to shoppers who care about environment, it could very well be the difference between picking a Samsung over another phone.
I can’t imagine we’ll see Apple join the party any time soon, despite their claims to be saving the planet by removing chargers from new shipments.
The door is open for other operators, with the launch operators stating “We look forward to welcoming more manufacturers and telecoms operators to the Eco Rating initiative in the future, and we hope it will inspire the whole industry to accelerate its transition towards a more circular model for mobile phones”.