October 12, 2016

"Lost in the hype about Samsung permanently pulling the plug on its exploding phone is this: The failure of the Galaxy Note 7 is an environmental tragedy, regardless of what Samsung decides will happen to the 2.5 million devices it manufactured."

motherboard: There are two main things to consider here: First, though smartphones weigh less than a pound, it was estimated in 2013 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers estimated that it takes roughly 165 pounds of raw mined materials to make the average cell phone, a number that is certainly higher for the Note 7, being both one of the largest and most advanced smartphones phones ever created. Second, much of that mined material is going to be immediately lost. by Jason Koebler

'This is because we are terrible at recycling smartphones—of the 50-or-so elements that are in a Galaxy Note 7, we can only recover about a dozen of them through recycling. Lost are most of the rare earth elements, which are generally the most environmentally destructive and human labor-intensive to mine.

'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.

'Alex King, the director of the Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute at the Ames Laboratory, told me that “recycling smartphones is in its infancy.” [He] also pointed to the design of the phone as Samsung’s main problem. “Think how much easier it would have been to manage the Note 7 problems, too, if it had been possible to simply remove the battery,” he said. “Addressing safety concerns by making the batteries removable in future generations will have the side-benefit of making the phones easier to recycle, too.”'

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