Samsung’s plan to recycle millions of Galaxy Note 7’s is huge task

18th July 2017 | Recycling

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 was an unmitigated disaster – but all is not lost. As well as reselling refurbished handsets, Samsung has also pledged to recycle or reuse 157 tonnes of gold, silver, cobalt and copper. A blue whale can weigh up to 200 tonnes, so that’s a lot of metal.

Thee constant smartphone iteration gravy train has created dizzying levels of toxic waste. An estimated 48 million tonnes of gadgets are thrown away each year – including 125 million smartphones. Devices are packed with rare metals components and the US Environmental Protection Agency says just 29 per cent of the country’s e-waste was recycled in 2012.

Samsung’s plan with the Note 7 is to try and stop these metals from going to waste. In a statement (translated from Korean), the company said it would be ripping out 157 tonnes of gold, silver, cobalt and copper will be recovered from the stricken Note 7 handsets.

A breakdown of the Note 7 from iFixit reveals how complex the handset is to take apart. The glass back and front are glued on tight, making just getting into the innards a major challenge. Once there, complex and intricate components, some of which get in the way of others, further complicated things.

The decision to extract and recycle as much as possible from the phones has followed pressure form campaigners such as Greenpeace. The environmental group has conducted research showing that more than 60 different elements are used in the manufacturing of smartphones. The impact of mining and processing the metals is also significant. For instance, Gorillas in Congo have been killed and eaten by miners who are likely involved in the product supply chain.

While it may be difficult for humans to take apart phones that have been stuck together using industrial strength glue, robots have an easier time. Apple’s Liam robot can pick-up and deconstruct iPhones into separate parts at rapid speed.

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