Samsung has confirmed to Motherboard that it will not be repairing or refurbishing the 2.5 million+ units of the Galaxy Note 7 that it has recalled. Instead, the company will safely be disposing of the phones it will receive.
Since Samsung announced that it would be ending production of the Galaxy Note 7 and recalling all the units sold, rumors were rife that the company would use the salvageable parts from the Note 7 inside a new smartphone to save costs. From Samsung’s official statement though, it looks like the company is planning on entirely disposing of the 2.5 million+ Note 7 units.
“We have a process in place to safely dispose of the phones,” a spokesperson said.
While Samsung does say that it has a safe process to dispose of the phones, the damage caused to the environment for disposing of 2.5 million units will be huge. Smartphone recycling process is not particularly efficient, and as the Motherboard report puts it, out of the 50+ elements used in a smartphone, only about a dozen of them are recoverable. The other four dozen+ are immediately lost, which are the rare earth elements that take considerable labor effort to mine and cause the environment the most damage.
Lost in the recycling process are “things like indium (used in touchscreens), rare earths like neodymium in the magnets in the speaker and microphone. Cobalt in the battery from the Congo,” Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, told me. “These are all very expensive in terms of the environmental impact, but also in the lives they impact to mine them,” Wiens continued. “Having to say without any of them having been used at all that they have to go straight to the recycler is really sad.”
Samsung published a sustainability report in 2016 where it showed the impact that the Galaxy S6 had on global warming. However, with the Note 7, the company is looking at disposing of a significantly higher number of units and it is definitely going to cause a significant damage to the environment irrespective of what Samsung says. Maybe with so many units to dispose of, Samsung will figure out a more efficient way to recycle smartphones that will cause less damage to the environment.