Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The Environmental Cost of the Galaxy Note 7 Recall

Jason Koebler, Vice:

Early Tuesday morning, Samsung announced it has permanently discontinued and stopped promoting the Galaxy Note 7, and has asked its customers to return their devices for a refund or exchange. A Samsung spokesperson told me the phones will not be repaired, refurbished, or resold ever again: “We have a process in place to safely dispose of the phones,” the company said.

This sounds reasonable, but the fact is that besides sitting in your nightstand drawer for eternity (a fate that will surely befall some of these phones) or being thrown into a garbage dump or chucked into the bottom of a river, being recycled is the worst thing that can happen to a smartphone.

The consumer electronics industry has made significant improvements towards reducing their environmental footprint, but there’s a long way to go. It’s particularly egregious here because the word recycling connotes a sense of environmental responsibility. But, as such a small amount of a phone is typically being recycled that it feels misleading, at best.

Coincidentally, Amelia Urry looked into Apple’s iPhone-dismantling robot, “Liam”, earlier this week for Grist. It’s better than traditional recycling techniques, but nowhere near as great as one might think. The drift towards a three-year refresh cycle due to higher-quality, better-performing smartphones ought to be encouraged for its ecological benefits.