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AT&T Launches Cell Phone Eco-Rating System

AT&T has launched its eco-ratings system in stores, allowing customers to compare cell phones’ environmental impacts.

The rating system – which has been developed in collaboration with sustainable business strategists BSR – rates mobile devices on 15 specific criteria in five categories: hazardous substances, environmentally preferable materials, product energy efficiency, end of life take-back and environmentally responsible manufacturing.

Device manufacturers submit an assessment specifying which of the 15 criteria, such as the percentage of post-consumer plastic used in the device, or restrictions on lead, cadmium, mercury and nickel, the device meets. AT&T reviews this report and confirms the data reported.  All of the scores from the criteria are aggregated and the mobile device is awarded a score from one to five, five being the most environmentally friendly.

Customers browsing in AT&T stores will see simple labels conveying the scores, the company says. Adjacent to the score is a QR code that customers can scan with their existing cell phone to get a detailed breakdown of how the phone scored in all the individual criteria. Consumers will also be able to visit a website to see detailed information about how AT&T and BSR set up the ratings and the overall impact of mobile devices.

The eco-rating will be applied to all new AT&T-branded postpaid mobile devices, as well as 13 from the existing portfolio, and follows a number of sustainability initiatives by the wireless firm.

Last fall, AT&T transitioned to a plant-based plastic in packaging for its branded wireless accessories. The plastic is composed of up to 30 percent plant-based materials, sourced from sugarcane-based ethanol.

In May, the company unveiled a cell phone trade-in recycling program, helping consumers save their old phones from landfills. Consumers trading an old phone in have the option to get credit towards a future AT&T purchase, or to donate to charity.

The company’s latest sustainability report shows that AT&T reduced the energy intensity of data carried on its network by 17 percent from 2010 to 2011. Last year the company instituted around 4,500 energy-saving projects including motion sensor replacements in central office space and airflow remediation in data centers. As a result of these upgrades the company saved around $42 million in energy costs in 2011, the report says.

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