Orange to rate environmental impact of mobile phones

Network operator Orange will rate the environmental impact of the fixed-line and mobile phones it sells, it said Friday.

The company will publish eco-ratings for the first 30 products on its French Web-site in mid-October and will extend it to all the products it sells next year, it said.

Orange is the brand used by France Télécom for its mobile phone and Internet access activities in France, the U.K. and other European countries. Orange is the exclusive service provider for Apple’s iPhone in France; it also provides iPhone service in Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Liechtenstein, Romania, and Slovakia.

Orange’s ratings initially concern its French stores and networks, and are based on five indicators, compiled by the company BIO Intelligence Service:

  • CO2 assessment, a measure of the greenhouse gas emissions caused by the phone’s manufacture and use;
  • Energy efficiency, a gauge of the phone’s power consumption and of any features that allow consumption to be reduced;
  • Resource preservation, a broad rating of whether the materials used to make the product are nonrenewable or whether, like the gold and tantalum used in electrical connections and capacitors, they come from what Orange describes as “sensitive economic or social environments”;
  • Limitation of dangerous substances, a measure of whether the phone avoids the use of toxic chemicals—although the most dangerous of these are already prohibited by European Union law;
  • Waste reduction, a rating of whether the device can be repaired and whether it or its packaging can be recycled.

Orange’s program, developed in conjunction with environmental group WWF, could give the French government some food for thought.

After the success of an eco-tax to penalize buyers of polluting vehicles and reward purchasers of vehicles with lower CO2 emissions, the government had talked of extending the measures to other products. Those plans were postponed last month because, the government said, there were no clear environmental criteria for products other than cars.

In France mobile phones—and most other electrical and electronic goods—are already subject to a special tax called “eco-participation,” intended to fund recycling of the products at the end of their lives. Although the current eco-tax on mobile phones differs from that for, say, photocopiers, it’s the same for all models of phone, and at just €0.01 (US$.01), is nowhere near enough to influence customers to choose more environmentally friendly products.

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