This is probably the first time in smartphone history that a company has to reclaim an entire generation of phones all at once, and then recycle them. Before Samsung stopped the production and sales of Galaxy Note 7, there were about 4.3 million handsets shipped to consumers. A big challenge before the Korean company is to dispose them of without causing major environmental damage.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Image source: Samsung.com (Screenshot)

Samsung has the opportunity to set an example

Environmental groups have voiced concern, and asked Samsung to act responsibly when disposing of the recalled units. Greenpeace said in a statement that dumping 4.3 million Galaxy Note 7 handsets could be “an environmental disaster.” Samsung now has the opportunity to “set an example to the industry.” Greenpeace said the Korean company will have to rethink how it “designs and produces its products.”

Back in 1995 when Samsung’s Anycall phones were found to be defective, the company responded to the crisis by setting 150,000 handsets on fire. Activists have urged Samsung not to repeat it. The world’s largest smartphone maker has said little about how it plans to dispose of the phones. The company told Motherboard that it had a “process in place” to deal with the devices.

Recalled Note 7 devices contain 100kg of gold!

The company said the recalled devices will not be resold, refurbished, or repaired. According to data from Germany-based Oeko-Institut, the recalled Galaxy Note 7 devices contain about 20,000 kilograms of cobalt, 1,000kg of tungsten, 1,000kg of silver, a hundred kilograms of gold, and up to 60kg of palladium. According to Greenpeace, despite the presence of precious metals, less than 25% of elements in smartphones are recovered through recycling.

Not all Galaxy Note 7 owners are willing to turn in their handsets despite Samsung trying hard to get them to bring their phones for an exchange or a refund. The company will be pushing out a forced software update to all the replacement Note 7 units on November 5th that will limit the battery charge to 60%. It will serve a dual purpose: Keep the batteries from overheating, and get people to turn in their phones. The firmware update will install without user permission since it’s a “safety measure.”

Learn from the Galaxy Note 7 crisis: Samsung CEO

Samsung CEO Kwon Oh-hyun said on Tuesday that the company should learn from the Galaxy Note 7 crisis and improve itself. Kwon told Samsung employees to look back at the crisis and ask whether they had become complacent in their work. It’s been two months since the Korean company first recalled the device, but Samsung engineers have yet to figure out the real cause of explosions.

The Galaxy Note 7 fiasco is estimated to cost Samsung about $5 billion. Profits at the company’s mobile division plunged 96% during the latest quarter due to the massive recall. Kwon told company employees that Samsung had a long history of overcoming crises. According to IDC, more than 50% Galaxy Note 7 owners were switching to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.