Reclaim: A Cellphone Made From Corn

SamsungReclaimPackaging

(Via Engadget)

Almost like a follow-up to a previous post, Samsung and Sprint introduce the Reclaim: a cellphone made from corn. This super-eco cellphone is made from 80 percent recycled materials and is constructed from “bio-plastic” materials made from corn. It’s free of PVC, and mostly free of BFR (brominated flame retardants), which are not good. Of course, the packaging will be eco-friendly as well, as it’s constructed from 70 percent recycled materials and printed with soy-based ink.

SamsungReclaimGreen_open

The stout, sliding QWERTY message-friendly device will be sold in “Earth Green” or “Ocean Blue” will go for $50 (after a $30 instant rebate and $50 mail-in rebate) with a two-year contract. Additionally, $2 of that profit will be funneled to the Nature Conservancy’s Adopt an Acre program.

For those of you still new to the whole corn-based plastics thing, the main component of this “bio-plastic” is polylactic acid, also known as PLA, a resin that comes from the fermentation of the raw biomass from plants (like corn). PLA by itself is biodegradable, does not generate dioxin when burnt, or other harmful gases. Unfortunately the material still needs a small amount of fossil fuel for it to be able to be used as a cell phone housing (only 40% of the housing is made from the corn-based bio-plastic). However, the PLA-based plastic can be processed after the end of use of the product and by doing so, the corn-based component can safely degrade.

Let’s hope that sucker doesn’t start breaking down in your sweaty little pocket… I’d love to find out which resin brand and grade are used in this… If anyone out there finds out, let me know… I think many of us are keen on seeing more real-world uses for biomass-based materials…

Read more details from Businesswire here.

UPDATE 1: Check out Vince’s comments below… [Thanks Vince!]

UPDATE 2: Engaget’s first hands-on for the Reclaim with a video showing the features.

The main component is polylactic acid, also known as PLA, a resin that comes from the fermentation of the raw biomass from plants. PLA by itself is biodegradable, does not generate dioxin when burnt, or other harmful gases. Unfortunately the material still needs a small amount of fossil fuel for it to be able to be used as a laptop housing. However, the PLA-based plastic can be processed after the end of use of the product and by doing so, the corn-based component can safely degrade.
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4 Responses to “Reclaim: A Cellphone Made From Corn”


  1. 1 Vince August 8, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    Hey Warren,

    Your blog is going well!

    I suspect this 40% PLA grade is a Samsung in-house compound of PLA and some type of PC/ABS. Samsung has a chemicals group called CHEIL and they have done work in this area. The PLA portion could be sourced from Natureworks or from an Asian supplier.

    • 2 Warren Ginn August 8, 2009 at 4:12 pm

      That’s awesome, thanks for the info… I really hope these materials begin to take hold and are truly viable from a business perspective… Right now the impression is that when you suggest these alternatives to clients, they typically scoff at the idea, thinking that will just increase their costs and finding a molder that can run the material will be a big headache… So I’m particularly interested in these stories to see how they fair in the real world… And I wasn’t kidding about breaking down in your “sweaty little pocket” either… If these resins are biodegradable, but compounded with other non-biodegradable resins, doesn’t that defeat the purpose? If they are biodegradable, how fast do they break down?

      Thanks for the kind comments. The blog has been a lot of fun so far…

      ~w~

      • 3 Vince August 9, 2009 at 10:38 am

        re. Biodegradability – I’m really not sure how fast a 40% PLA alloyed with a non-degradable resin would degrade. PLA would not degrade due to exposure to temperature, skin oils or sweat in your palms, and requires fairly specific moisture, temperature and enzymatic conditions.

        I think the argument these companies make is more on the lines of “bio-based content” in the part as supposed to “biodegradability”. You will notice that in the business article there is no claim made of biodegradability by Samsung but rather that 40% of the casing “comes from corn”. Whether using corn starches as a source of plastic is a good thing or not is another debate.

      • 4 Warren Ginn August 9, 2009 at 1:57 pm

        Thanks again, Vince.

        ~w~


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