New Samsung handsets made from corn

TAIPEI – Samsung Electronics has unveiled two new mobile phones made with plastic derrived from corn as it expands initiatives aimed at being more nature-friendly.

The W510 is the first mobile phone Samsung has ever made using the new corn-based plastic, the company said. Samsung did not use any heavy metals, such as lead, mercury or cadmium, in the handset either. It has been working on the new plastic as a way to produce more environmentally-friendly materials.

Several companies have worked on corn-based plastics, including NEC and Fujitsu of Japan, to replace petroleum-based plastics in products such as laptop PCs and mobile phones. The idea of using corn-based plastics has been around for years, and has been reignited in recent years by the high price of oil.

In the 1990s, companies started putting corn-based plastics in a range of products, including plastic bags, water bottles and diapers, but companies avoided using them in heavier products because the plastic was weak. More recently, researchers have mixed corn-based plastics with petroleum-based plastics to create a stronger material suitable for laptops and handsets.

The second corn-based handset Samsung released Monday was the F268, which includes an alarm on the charger to alert users when the battery is fully-charged. They company also made sure accessories for the F268 did not contain PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or BFRs (brominated flame retardant), a chemical used to make it hard for products to catch fire but that may be contaminating the environment.

Samsung plans to expand its eco-friendly handset line-up, a company representative said without being specific. European users will see other environmental features on all Samsung handsets, including the charger-alarm as well as more nature-friendly packaging. Globally, Samsung plans to stop using PVC and BFRs by 2010 in all handsets.

The W510 will be launched in Korea in June, while the F268 will hit China at the same time.

Samsung has operated recycling schemes for its handsets in South Korea since 2004 and China since 2005, a company representative said. Owners of Samsung handsets need only turn old phones in at Samsung repair and service centers in both countries.

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