Samsung and Greenpeace: What You Need To Know About E-Waste

At the smartphone world?EU?s annual shindig in Barcelona, there are some things the tech giants have been trying to get people talking about -- the relaunch of the Nokia 3310, BlackBerry?EU?s new fingerprint scanner, Samsung?EU?s virtual reality headset.

But there?EU?s another, less glamorous story that they haven?EU?t been so keen to promote. And that concerns the fate of their gadgets when consumers have finished with them.

On Sunday, Greenpeace interrupted a Samsung press conference to protest the company?EU?s failure to produce a recycling plan for the defective Galaxy Note 7, recalled last year due to fire risk. The campaign group claims Samsung has 4.3m handsets to get rid of.

A Samsung spokesperson has since said the company is working 'to ensure a responsible disposal plan" for its defunct phones, and prioritizing safety and environment. But if the piled up Galaxy Note 7s go the same way as the rest of our old smartphones, computers and tablets, where might they end up?

Sending E-Waste Offshore

Since the start of 2017, we have thrown out more than 6.4m tons of electronic goods, according to The World Counts, a website keeping a live tally of global e-waste. If past patterns are any judge, not much of this will get properly recycled: less than a sixth of the e-waste discarded around the world in 2014 was dealt with in this way, says the UN.

Even in developed countries with advanced infrastructure, electronics recycling rates are low. The US recycled just 29% (pdf) of the 3.4m ton of e-waste it produced in 2012, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, while the rest was sent to landfill or incinerated.

"Our recycling rates for electronics are abysmal," says Jim Puckett, executive director and founder of the Basel Action Network (BAN), an NGO. He estimates that 5% of metals used in electronics...

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