Environment and Sustainability

Key Points

  • In the U.S., wireless companies take their commitment seriously to protect the environment for future generations through individual company programs as well as industry-wide initiatives led by CTIA.
    • Many of these activities, as well as consumer info on how to use wireless to be “green”, are highlighted on CTIA’s GoWirelessGoGreen.org.
    • We also feature CTIA Green Working Group, which is working to create the wireless industry’s eco-friendly standards, currently focused on postpaid device packaging and recycling of “old” devices and accessories.
  • Perhaps the most significant impact the wireless industry has on the environment is how our technology helps other industries, from transportation to health care to utilities, increase their own efficiencies by conserving resources and improving business practices PDF icon.

CTIA Position:

The wireless industry is an active participant in protecting our environment so future generations may enjoy a healthy planet. Our members recognize their role in reducing their eco-footprint and creating a sustainable, low-carbon economy.

For many CTIA carrier and supplier members, this means changing their own processes by reducing their waste and emissions and implementing e-billing, alternative energy powered cell sites and energy-saving IT programs.

For device manufacturers, there are constant improvements on the design of devices and packaging to be more lightweight and environmentally-friendly. On average the new generations of wireless devices weigh approximately 79g; this is 42 percent less than earlier models. Wireless manufacturers are also using sustainable and recyclable materials, such as biopaints and bioplastics that are made from vegetable oil, not crude oil. Manufacturers have eliminated or greatly reduced the use of hazardous substances such as brominated flame retardants (BFRs), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), lead and cadmium.

In addition, many of the new smartphones in the U.S. have a “one-charger-fits-all” universal charger solution (UCS) to reduce energy consumption and consumer costs as of January 2012. The UCS provides an estimated 50 percent reduction in standby energy consumption by utilizing the micro-USB format as the common universal charging interface and meets U.S. “Energy Star” requirements for external power adapters. CTIA also supports simplifying the input/output features for new wireless devices as a way to streamline and reduce the number of audio and data connectors for mobile devices.

Yet perhaps the greatest single contribution the wireless industry may offer to being “green” is through providing new efficiencies. No matter a company’s function, size or location, many – including CTIA member companies – deploy wireless technology to streamline operations, reduce environmental impact and practice sustainable business. For example:

  • By wirelessly submitting work orders, customer forms and credit card payments, millions are saved each year on paper and fuel costs.
  • Through real-time management of fleets (such as delivery vehicles, sanitation trucks, school buses or farm equipment), dispatchers are able to wirelessly monitor and route their fleets, thereby saving millions of gallons of fuel and cutting thousands of tons of CO2 emissions every year.
  • By deploying utility and water efficient wireless products and services such as mobile meters and machine-to-machine (M2M) communication technologies, some of our members have saved up to 70 percent in their energy costs and have significantly reduced their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
    • By 2030, the Electric Power Research Institute estimated the implementation of smart grid technologies will save $20.4 billion for U.S. consumers and businesses by reducing electricity usage by 4 percent. This is significant savings since Xcel Energy projects a 40 percent increase in consumer demand for utilities over the next 25 years.
  • Many companies implemented waste reduction and recycling programs; started commuter/telework programs encouraging employees to carpool or work from home; and created sustainable ecological offices that use renewable energy and are more efficient.

While wireless companies and businesses around the world make significant changes to their own practices, consumers play a key role in protecting our environment.

As wireless companies continue to innovate to offer Americans the world’s best products and services, consumers need to properly recycle their devices and accessories. To make it as easy as possible for consumers, wireless providers will accept all devices and accessories at their stores, regardless of which carrier provided your service. There are also numerous drop-off or mail back programs, websites and charity drives. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recycling one million cellphones saves enough energy to power more than 185 U.S. households with electricity for a year. 

Don’t forget to remove all of your personal information before you recycle or donate your wireless device! Here are some simple tips so you may completely remove your data.

Last Updated: November 2013

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