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Case study

Support circular material solutions for smartphones

We are working with Fairphone, a Dutch social enterprise building a market for ethical smartphones, on the use of circular material solutions for its smartphones. Fully and partly recycled thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU) are used in the protective case of the Fairphone 3 and its successor, the Fairphone 4, and partly recycled polycarbonates are additionally used in the newer device.
Task

Material solutions support module design of Fairphone 4, and help Fairphone develop circular economy.

With the help of post-consumer recycling portfolio,  we supports Fairphone in achieving its sustainability goals. This includes particularly robust material solutions that enable a modular design of Fairphone products and promote repairability.
Challenge 1

Reduce carbon emissions of Fairphone 4

Fairphone’s mission is to create a more equitable and sustainable future and work towards a circular economy that creates a more sustainable world. Using recycled and recyclable materials solutions in Fairphone 4, is just a first step.
Challenge 2

Support Fairphone's modular design philosophy

Fairphone devices are known for their modular design, which favors better repairability. Such a design requires materials with robust mechanical properties to enable repeated disassembly and repair.

"With the help of our post-consumer recycling portfolio, we support Fairphone in achieving its sustainability goals. This includes particularly robust material solutions that enable a modular design of Fairphone products and promote their repairability. Such projects and collaborations are in line with our vision to become fully circular."

Nan Hu

VP Head of Global Industrial Marketing Electronics & Electrical in the Engineering Plastics business entity, Covestro

Solution 1

Provide partly recycled thermoplastic polyurethanes and polycarbonates

Our post-consumer recycled (PCR) polycarbonate portfolio are used in the Fairphone 4's rear device cover, middle frame and wireless charger. With a PCR content of 30 to 50 percent, this Makrolon® portfolio has physical properties comparable to virgin material and offers good impact strength, balanced flow behavior, and high stiffness and flame retardancy to ensure a long service life while reducing CO2 emissions by 30 percent compared to virgin material
 
 We have also developed a new range of recycled and partially recycled TPUs of the Desmopan® brand, which are now used in the protective cover of the Fairphone 4 and are certified according to RCS (Recycled Claim Standard), an international standard for the traceability of recycled raw materials within supply chains.
 
This includes the product Desmopan® 3095AU RC100, which was developed after identifying several streams of post-industrial recycled plastics. The fully recycled material exhibits the typical advantages of TPU, for example, high chemical and abrasion resistance, but easier processability because it melts at lower temperatures and flows better than virgin material. The product has proven itself when used in the protective case of the Fairphone 3 and is now being used in the Fairphone 4. It is available in three color variants: gray, green and pink.
Solution 2

Support the Module design of Fairphone 4, with better repairability

The glass-fiber-reinforced grade of the Makrolon® PCR portfolio offers a good solution for the heavily stressed center frame of the Fairphone 4. The increased stiffness and impact resistance are in line with Fairphone's modular design approach. Covestro thus also supports a mono-material approach in each case for the use of polycarbonates in the housing and TPU plastics in the protective cover to facilitate recycling of the smartphones at the end of their useful life.

"With a shared mission to create a more equitable and sustainable future, Fairphone is pleased to collaborate with Covestro and use its recycled and recyclable materials solutions in our Fairphone 4. We believe Covestro can help us work towards a circular economy that creates a more sustainable world. This is just a first step, and we will continue to support Covestro in developing more sustainable materials"

Wayne Huang

VP Product Operations, Fairphone

Key benefits

  • Sustainable With a PCR content of 30 to 50 percent, Makrolon® portfolio reduces CO2 emissions by 30 percent compared to virgin material which are used in the rear device cover, middle frame and wireless charger of Fairphone 4. Desmopan® is fully recycled.
  • Impact strength and high stiffness Makrolon® portfolio offers good impact strength, high stiffness and flame retardancy.
  • Low melting point and better flowability TPUs of the Desmopan® , with low melting point and better flowability, are now used in the protective cover of Fairphone 4.

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