With the Olympics coming in Beijing and numerous recalls, China has been in the news a lot lately and not for good reason. But it is interesting to look at what China is doing in the cell phone industry. Hi-tech Wealth Company, a Chinese telecommunication company, is one of the world leaders in green cell phones. Recently they introduced the HTW S116 Solar Mobile phone. It's a flip phone currently only available in China. The top side of the phone is a solar panel that recharges the battery. Each charge will last up to 2.5 hours longer then the standard Lithium Ion batteries we know here in the rest of the world. Sources say that for every hour charge, 40 minutes of talk time is gained. So you could put the phone on your cars dashboard when traveling and always ensure you have a full charge. But despite getting its power from the sun this is a full featured cell phone. It has a 1.3 megapixel camera, mp3 player as well as flash memory options.

At $510US it's not cheap but environmentally the impact is huge, China has over 400 million cell phone users so to think if even ½ of those users went to this phone the impact on our globe would be huge, as there is no need for electrical recharging. With all the talk right now of China being such a big environmental polluter this is encouraging. Right now this is just available in China but manufacturers hope to have as many as 30 solar powered models out there by the end of 2008 so it's only a matter of time before they catch on globally. Right now American manufacturers are working on solar powered back up chargers like the Solio universal charger which has 3 solar panels that fan out with the battery in the middle. So it resembles something like a daisy. So that if your phone dies any needed power is picked up from the sun but it is hard to see someone carrying something like that around with them all the time.

China’s advancement in this area can come none to soon for the rest of the world. As cell phone use grows throughout the world so does the need for Lithium batteries. This is especially bad news for the African nation of the Democratic nation of Congo. The Congo is home to the worlds deposits of Colton an ore used in creating a heat resistant ore that stores electrical charges. Often found in electrical capacitors. It is smaller and lighter then aluminum so as phones get smaller and lighter this ore becomes more valuable. Colton is available in Canada and Australia but 97% of the worlds supply exists in the Congo. But mining for it has come at a horrible price. Large scale deforestation has robbed the native gorilla of its home making them prime target for poachers over the past 5yrs this has contributed to a decline of their population by as much as 90% in some areas. In an effort to combat this, American companies such as Kemet a capacitor manufacturer has begun to require its suppliers get their goods from other places. But that is just one company as so many other companies do get their supplies from the Congo civil wars have broken out over competing groups eager to mine what at one time was gorgeous national park area.

As new phones with the new bells and whistles come out people are upgrading their cell phones an average of about once every 2 years so our dependence on Colton only grows. A company called Eco-cell has partnered with zoos to try to not only recycle phones but save the gorilla. You bring your old phone to a recycling center, where they refurbish it and sell it to low income families who otherwise many not have a phone, with the proceeds going to gorilla conservation agencies. Right now Eco-cell is only available in the States but many such companies exist in Canada and many cell phone dealers have the facilities to do it themselves. Considering most of us just place their old cell in a drawer and forget about it, it is really not costing us much and can save so much more in the process. Both for the recipient of the new cell phone and for Mother Nature.