Samsung is now gathering up the millions of discontinued and recalled Galaxy Note 7 smartphones sold around the world, with the help of retailers, ground transportation companies, and kits that include safety gloves and multiple layers of fireproof boxes. Yet that’s just the first step in retiring all of those devices. “Recycling” smartphones still usually means recycling their parts into a refurbished phone, not recycling the phone’s materials into a new phone or another object.
Motherboard points out that this could have been avoided if the Galaxy Note 7, had a user-removable battery like its predecessors. Samsung still isn’t quite sure what makes the device so flammable, but if it turns out to be the battery after all, users could have simply swapped out their current batteries for non-defective ones. If Samsung had ever figured out how to make non-defective Note 7 batteries, that is.
Instead, the device is a bit thinner and even more of an environmental disaster. Even old smartphones can be used for parts or refurbished and sent to customers in developing countries. At best, we can expect that the Note 7 will be taken apart down to its components, with some of them recycled.
That won’t be very profitable for Samsung, for the earth, or for the miners whose job it is to remove metals like cobalt and neodymium from the earth. Those elements, used in batteries and in speakers and microphones respectively, can’t be recovered from an already-manufactured smartphone.
The good news is that the prospect of recovering maybe a couple of bucks’ worth of materials from each of these very expensive phones might lead Samsung to invest in research to find better ways to recycle electronic devices.
by Laura Northrup via Consumerist