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Mobile phone industry pale green at best

While consumers of electronic products might prefer to buy from environmentally responsible companies, the reality is that truly green options are still hard to come by.

At least that’s the case for the mobile phone industry, according to a new study by ABI Research, a New York City-based market research firm focused on emerging technologies.

The study, “Mobile Handset Green Initiatives,” finds that few mobile phone vendors enjoy the market scale large enough to make truly green product lines economically viable.

“(O)ur research found that very few handset manufacturers — except those with the scale to do it economically, such as Samsung and Nokia — are highly motivated to produce lines of green phones,” said Kevin Burdun, director of ABI Research. “Instead, the effort is towards compliance and the trickling down of proven green elements throughout entire product lines.”

The trickle-down effect is exacerbated by recycling efforts that could best be characterized as lame, though in that case it’s consumers who are more to blame: while most mobile phone vendors offer recycling programs, less than 5 percent of their products are ever returned for that purpose, the ABI study found.

Moral of the story: before you accuse the industry of greenwashing, you’d be wise to dig through your closets and return those old mobile units for recycling.

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