20 metric tons of cobalt, more than one ton of tungsten, one ton of silver, 100 kilograms of gold, and 20 to 60 kilograms of palladium: this collection of resources is inside the 4.3 million phones recalled by Samsung. The company has said that it will “safely dispose of the phones”, but it is unclear if it will save the precious materials in that disposal process.
Disassembling an old phone to extract the precious materials from it is currently considered to be much less efficient than refurbishing and reselling it to customers in developing markets. However, the large-scale recall might be an opportunity to gain new insights into the phone recycling process.
Greenpeace has launched a petition to ask Samsung to reuse the materials from their recalled Galaxy Note 7 phones.