Imagine a cell phone case made from carbon. Soon you won’t have to just imagine. Sprint will be selling AirCarbon cell phone cases for the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S which will be sold exclusively on Sprint.com by late May for $29.99. Sprint will be one of the first companies to use AirCarbon, and the first telecommunications company to sell a carbon-negative product using AirCarbon. The cell phone case weighs the same as the carbon that has been sequestered.
AirCarbon is made by California-based Newlight Technologies which uses a carbon capture process to convert air and greenhouse gases (GHGs) into plastic that is similar to petroleum-based plastics. Founded in 2003, Newlight was named the “Most Innovative Company of the Year” in 2013, and received an R&D 100 Award for AirCarbon in 2013 as “one of the 100 most technologically significant innovations of the year.”
“We are pleased to introduce this new technology – essentially turning greenhouse gas into a plastic that has the potential to replace petroleum-based plastics,” said David Owens, Sprint’s senior vice president of Product. “This innovation is another example of Sprint’s leadership in providing eco-friendly products to our customers.”
“AirCarbon offers a new paradigm in which products we use every day, like cellphone cases, become part of the environmental solution,” said Mark Herrema, Newlight Technologies co-founder and CEO. “Newlight’s mission is to replace petroleum-based plastics with greenhouse gas-based plastics on a commodity scale by out-competing on price and performance – harnessing the power of our choices as consumers to make change.”
Sprint: A leader in telecom sustainability
Sprint, which served almost 55 million customers as of March 31, 2014, is fast becoming a leader among telecommunications companies in sustainability. Sprint was named the most “Eco Focused” wireless carrier by Compass Intelligence. Since 2009, the company has made great strides to be more sustainable: Sprint has reduced the overall environmental impact of its device packaging by 55 percent, reduced packaging volume by 60 percent and weight by 50 percent. The company also reduced product literature weight by 70 percent, water withdrawal by at least 67 percent and non-renewable energy use by at least 33 percent.
Reusing and recycling unwanted devices is important to Sprint, which has wireless recycling programs in place that keep thousands of tons of wireless equipment from ending up in the waste stream. More than 90 percent of the devices collected through the programs are reused, and any equipment not reused is recycled. One of such programs is called Sprint Buyback, and it offers customers credit for hundreds of wireless devices, even if they come from other carriers. The program is free and serves as a way for Sprint to repurpose or recycle unwanted devices.
Sprint Project Connect is another program that allows anyone to recycle cell phones, batteries, accessories and data cards for free. Sprint will accept them regardless of the carrier or condition. The company uses electronics recycling vendors that are certified from leading used electronic management certifications, so that only the best environmental methods of waste disposal possible are used. The program gives back to U.S. communities as it helps to fund and promote free Internet safety resources for kids.
Sprint is also a leader in efforts to create more sustainable packaging. In 2009, Sprint stopped using petroleum-based inks, non-recyclable plastics, and cardboard made from virgin forest products. All of Sprint’s packaging is 100 percent recyclable. Boxes are made from unbleached kraft paper with 30 percent minimum post-consumer content, and they only use soy inks and eco-friendly adhesives. Sprint also stopped using PVC and replaced it with 100 percent recycled PET plastic.
Image credit: Griffin Technology