To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Nokia corporate communications, Nokia support discussions
Date: 7 Feb 2008 17:16
Subject: Dear Nokia
I’m writing to you because I recently managed to destroy my brandnew Nokia 5300. Instead of spiralling into a temporary consumer depression, cured the moment I’d decide to acquire my 11th mobile phone since 1997, I sat down to reflect on the model, Nokia and cell phones in general.
In respect to the model, the Nokia 5300 is a design fluke. Now sold at 100 euros in a perpetual promotional campaign in Portugal, where I live, it wouldn’t be worth more than about 10 if not for the carbon-offsets needed to compensate for its energy use.. Two months off the shelf, the battery needs to be recharged 2 or 3 times a day, regardless of use, the network is constantly unavailable and frequently messages are withheld at the central for some mysterious reason that none of the operators could explain (they simply told me to switch the phone on and off once in a while..). I verified these complaints with dozens of other users.
But despite being a design disaster, the 5300 is probably a commercial success. After all, it responds nicely to the need to rotate products as quickly as possible. Most consumers will not bother to insist on their 2-year warranty by law and simply move on to the latest hype. In Portugal alone, using a conservative estimate of phone-“upgrading” every 2 years (although 18 months, the length of the service contract, is more the norm), 4 to 5 million phones are discarded each year.. Worldwide we could be talking about 500 million phones a year! Safe to say, about 125 million of these are Nokia. And even if a fair percentage of the users in Europe hand in their old phone instead of tossing it in the bin (but not more than 10% of phones are actually recycled and maybe 0,5% reused), a bit of research shows us that 50 to 80% of this e-waste is dangerously disposed of (dumped, burned, preferably outside of Europe), releasing a.o. the following toxic materials into the environment: pvc, flame-retardants, phtalates, mercury, lead, cadmium, cobalt, nickel, copper and depleting resources such as gold, platinum, palladium, zinc and silver, not to forget coltan, the mining of which endangers mountain gorilla habitat in Congo.
Now, exploring your websites, I do come across your commitment to improving the environmental standards of your products, although clearly in step with stricter legislation (EPR and WEEE directives). Plus I need to delve deep into the “Corporate Responsibility” section, which is not exactly where consumers look. The pages designed to charm us into a new model actually kind of downplay the effects of mobile phones and mobile communication on society and the environment. So you’re working on it, but you don’t want to talk about it too much with your fans.
Before you send me a heap of papers proving that you’re seriously committed to sustainable products and manufacturing, I’ve read them. They date from the last few years: “Nokia strives to reduce the possible(?) harmful environmental impact of its products, services and operations over the entire product life cycle.”
This is why I think you’re going a bit slow for a world leader:
Why isn’t responsible cell phone use and recycling on your homepage? Why don’t we know who you hand the phones off to? Why don’t you have a program to refurbish “older” phones for donation or resale? Why doesn’t your packaging alert us to the composition of phones and the necessity to safely dispose of them? More importantly, why don’t your phones last? Recycle, sure, reuse preferably, but first of all reduce! The kind of statement I would like to see on your homepage would be the year you plan to have a zero-toxic waste, reusable, fully recyclable and add-on friendly product (meaning, instead of chucking an older model out, you could actually upgrade it for a fee), using fully standardized design (Now what’s with all those different chargers? Why aren’t the batteries interchangeable? Why the devil doesn’t my 2005 phone “talk” to my 2007 phone or even to my computer?)
I went back to using my 3-year old cell after having smashed the fateful 5300, and not suprisingly it’s actually better than the new model. Now let’s see if I can make it last until Nokia launches an ambitious and truly innovative plan to completely close the loop on one of the world’s most sold products.
Your potential fan
Lanka Horstink, Lisbon, Portugal
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