Covestro supports circular material solutions for smartphones

Covestro is collaborating 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.

Covestro supports circular material solutions for smartphones

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Products from Covestro’s 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.

Covestro has 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.

Modular design favors better repairability

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. 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.

Partly recycled polycarbonates from Covestro are used in the new Fairphone 4, including a completely recycled TPU in the protective case. © Fairphone

“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,” says Nan Hu, VP Head of Global Industrial Marketing Electronics & Electrical in the Engineering Plastics business entity at Covestro. “Such projects and collaborations are in line with our vision to become fully circular.”

“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,” says Wayne Huang, VP Product Operations at Fairphone.

More information www.covestro.com