Mobile Phone Lifecycle Assessment: Samsung Omnia i910 (Verizon Wireless-USA)

Sustainable Minds LifeCycle Assessment

Sustainable Minds is a powerful tool to analyze the environmental impact of products.  Analyzing the Samsung Omnia i910 (Verizon Wireless, US Market-CDMA2000 radio) yielded relatively predictable results—this is a pretty toxic thing to make – and it is predicted that the average Westerner will go through 35 mobile phones in a lifetime (1).  For the record, I’m on my 4th phone.  I seem to keep them longer than the average 2 years.  Unfortunately this will yield a relatively high lifetime impact for me.

  1. Motorola StarTAC (2001-2004)  *the Nr. 6 gadget of all time!  super design!
  2. Motorola Timeport (2004-2006) – [actually 2002-2006, I was the second user of this device]
  3. Motorola E815 (2006-2009)
  4. Samsung Omnia i910 (2009-present)

The Sustainable Minds LCA quantifies the materials and energy inputs, and yields an analysis in the categories of ecological damage, resource depletion, and human health damage.  It’s not perfect, but it only costs a small fortune to use.

Analysis of the i910 yielded the following:




Individual Impact (%)

Category Impact (%)

Ecological Damage






Global Warming


Ozone Depletion


Water Eutrophication



Resource Depletion

Fossil Fuel



Human Health Damage

Human Respiratory



Human Carcinogens


Human Toxicity





From the Above, the major impact is ecotoxicity: 58.34% of the overall impact.  This is likely due to the materials and solvents used in semiconductor processing.  As many of these are carcinogens, the high human carcinogen and human toxicity impacts are accounted for.  Interestingly, the amount of fossil-based plastic, aluminum, steel, and copper in the device don’t rate for resource depletion, I’m not sure if that’s a flaw in the system, or the amounts are so small as to be relatively insignificant—and for the most part metals can be reclaimed in recycling.


Sourcemap is an MIT Media Lab project to develop an open source product-source mapping tool.  It’s still under development, and can’t handle multi-modal transport (e.g. container ship->truck), and it does not accurately calculate distances by following air routes or shipping lanes, but it’s a start, and it’s free for anyone to use!  Check out the map:




One thought on “Mobile Phone Lifecycle Assessment: Samsung Omnia i910 (Verizon Wireless-USA)

  1. Further information, from ‘How Bad are Bananas?’

    The use of the cell phone has a carbon cost of 47kg CO2e/yr if used 2 min/day, up to 1250kg CO2e/yr if used an hour a day. For everyone, it amounts to 125 million tons CO2e/yr.

    This seems insanely high, but it makes sense if you consider it in the light of most of the energy going in to the network, not just charging your phone every night. Considering how much infrastructure is required (3 towers, cables, switching stations in between, no wonder it has such a high cost. By Berners-Lee’s analysis, nearly 50% of the energy is used by the base stations and 12% goes into network operations.

    Berners-Lee claims the making of the phone has a cost of 16kg CO2e, which isn’t terrible (equivalent to 1kg of beef) considering the utility of 2-3 years of talking, texting, emailing, and all of the other things one does with the mobile.

    Switching: 11.9%
    Base Stations: 49.1%
    Administration: 15.1%
    Charging: 6.8%
    Transport (pre-sale): 3.4%
    Phone Manufacture: 13.4%

    Making the phone greener isn’t just about making the phone greener. It’s about making the system (network + phone) greener. That’s a bigger job.

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