US mobile operator, Sprint is giving the packaging that house accessories for its phone models a green makeover. According to the operator, all accessories sold at Sprint retail stores and online will be packaged in an environmentally-friendly holder beginning this month (November).
The new packaging will be fully recyclable, and is 20% to 40% smaller than previous accessory packaging, which Sprint estimates will save 647 tons of waste annually. Better yet, these green packaging will also result in a 35% reduction in accessory packaging costs for the operator, or the equivalent of US$2.1 million in savings annually, the operator said. In other words, going green does pay!
Some of the things that Sprint is doing with the new package include: replacing PVC with PET 1, a more recyclable and environmentally friendly material; replacing petroleum-based inks with soy and vegetable-based inks; and making sure that all the paper that is used is Forest Stewardship Council certified, which makes sure that the paper travels from an FSC-certified forest to a paper manufacturer, merchant, and print, to promote conservation and responsible forest management.
One missing detail from Sprint is the upfront cost of implementing the policy – which is typically one of the main obstacles for green adoption programs. After all, upgrading any technology brings inherent power to performance benefits, but the cost of the upgrade is typically what keeps people from the more efficient, and more often than not, more powerful systems.
Still, Sprint should be commended for its efforts. But why has the company stopped at accessories? Why not phones too?
The answer is that Sprint probably sources the accessories directly from manufacturers, hence is able to dictate the type of packaging they come in. In some ways, they source in the same way from the cellphone makers, but I’m guessing that they leave the environmental responsibility aspect of handsets – and their packaging – to the handset makers themselves. Yet, I see no harm for operators to mandate some type of environmental positioning for handsets that are delivered to them from handset makers. After all, handsets are customised with operator logos and branding already, so why should Sprint ask for custom-made packaging as well.
To be fair, handset makers are pretty conscious of the fact and are already well on the road towards sustainable packaging. Then again, I still end up with a cardboard box, with at least two or three redundant pieces of component – i.e. different plug adaptors, that sit around in my drawer, or go straight to the garbage, every time I purchase a new phone.
There’s work being done, like the adoption of a universal charger for all phones being adopted by the ITU and the industry, but a lot more can be done.