Samsung has officially divulged its plan for sustainably handling the estimated 4.3 million Galaxy Note 7 smartphones it was forced to recall last year after numerous reports of battery faults from consumers.
Following pressure from green groups and campaigners, the electronics giant yesterday set out three principles it said would ensure the devices “are recycled and processed in an environmentally-friendly manner”.
The company also said it plans to join the European Union’s R&D and testing efforts “to develop new eco-friendly processing methods” as part of its ongoing commitment to recycling.
The flagship phones were recalled weeks after first being launched on the market last September, forcing Samsung to additionally halt production of the defective devices in order to establish the cause of the battery problems.
However, the company at the time declined to provide precise details of whether the recalled phones and components would be refurbished or recycled, which green groups said would help reduce the environmental impact of the recall.
However, ahead of the launch of its latest smartphone model and the first since the Note 7 on March 29 – the Galaxy S8 – Samsung yesterday set out its plan for dealing with the faulty phones.
In the first instance, the company said the devices would be considered for use as refurbished phones or rental phones where applicable, dependent on consultations with regulatory authorities and carriers.
Then, if that is not possible, salvageable components should be detached for reuse in other products.
Finally, the third option would see Samsung work with specialist companies using “environmentally friendly methods” to extract valuable metals from the phones such as copper, nickel, gold and silver for recycling.
Jude Lee, global senior campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia, said the announcement demonstrated Samsung had listened to consumers and campaigners and had taken a major step towards shifting the way electronics are produced and disposed of globally.
But he urged the company to provide more detail on its recycling plan. “While we welcome this news, Samsung must share as soon as possible more detailed timelines on when it will implement its promises, as well as how it intends to change its production system to make sure this never happens again,” Lee said. “The average smartphone in the US is used for about two years, adding to growing piles of e-waste around the world. This is simply not sustainable. Samsung and other IT companies such as Apple should manufacture phones that are easy to repair, refurbish, and upgrade.”