Samsung Handsets Sport Corn-based Plastics

South Korea’s Samsung is trying to get on the green bandwagon, introducing two new handsets for the Korean and Chinese markets that feature new eco-friendly features and eliminate toxic components.

Both the new W510 and F268 handsets are built using plastics made from corn; in addition, the W510 does not use any heavy metals like cadmium, lead, or mercury (which are environmental hazards when phones are disposed of), and the F268 doesn’t use any polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in its construction. The F268 also features an alarm on its charger so users will know when their phone is fully charged and be able to remove the charger from the wall, eliminating the “trickle waste” of an AC adapter plugged in all the time.

“Samsung is striving to continue to be a strong corporate citizen that contributes to environmental sustainability,” said Samsung’s president for telecommunications Geesung Choi, in a statement. “Now we are trying not only to launch more environmentally-conscious products with more renewable material and less energy consuming, but also to expand proactively set up a phone recycling system.”

Although the W510 and F268 are aimed at the Korean and Chinese markets, respectively, Samsung says it plans to expand its eco-friendly handsets, materials, and features to other markets. Samsung has committed to removing PVC and BFRs from all handsets by 2010, and the charger-alarm feature shroud begin turning up in some European handsets soon. Samsung has offered phone recycling in Korea since 2004 and in China since 2005.

Manufacturers have experimented with corn-based plastics (made from polylactic acid, of PLA) for several years, but interest has re-ignited recently as the cost of petroleum has sharply increased. Corn-based plastics have been used in small items for some time, but has generally been too weak for large items. More recently, researchers have been combining PLA plastics with petroleum-based plastics for stronger blends…although this eliminates on of corn-based plastics’ biggest selling points: in theory, they’re compostable.

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