Samsung will dispose of all the recalled Galaxy Note 7 devices and not repair, refurbish or resell them, the company has said.
On 11 October, the company announced it would ask wireless carriers and retailers to stop sales and exchange of the Note 7 while an investigation is in place. Later it said it has decided to halt production and sales of the device permanently.
"We have a process in place to safely dispose of the phones," a company spokesperson told Motherboard.
Recycling a phone is not seen as the ultimate solution. Estimates by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers suggest though smartphones weigh less than a pound, it takes about 165 pounds of raw mined materials to manufacture the average mobile phone.
Another fact is mined material used in the phones will be lost. Recycling a Note 7 would help recover only about a dozen elements used in the device.
"Smartphones are not really recycled (the rare earth elements, anyway), so you'd lose almost all the interesting stuff in those smartphones," Benjamin Sprecher, a postdoctoral scholar at Leiden University in the Netherlands, told Motherboard.
Alex King, the director of the Department of Energy's Critical Materials Institute at the Ames Laboratory, said: "Recycling smartphones is in its infancy."
Lost in the recycling process are "things like indium (used in touchscreens), rare earths like neodymium in the magnets in the speaker and microphone. Cobalt in the battery from the Congo", Kyle Wiens, chief executive officer of iFixit, said.
"These are all very expensive in terms of the environmental impact, but also in the lives they impact to mine them," added Wiens. "Having to say without any of them having been used at all that they have to go straight to the recycler is really sad."
The reason smartphones are not recycled is the loss of materials. They are instead refurbished and sold to phone insurance companies and customers.
Samsung is yet to put out an environmental report since the Note 7 was released, although it does reportedly have better environmental practices. The company "considers environmental degradation and human rights violations in conflict areas as serious ethical issues", notes its 2016 sustainability report.
While Samsung's previous Galaxy Note had a removable battery, in the Note 7 Samsung used glue to secure the battery inside the phone's case. This made it difficult to remove the battery both for repairing as well as recycling purposes. The company has admitted that the battery powering the Note 7 is the real problem and the battery recall or replacement programme would have been less difficult or less environmentally disastrous if the batteries were easily replaceable.
"If Samsung could have just said we're going to ship everyone a new battery that has 95% of the capacity of the old one, that's not pushing the safety margins like the last one, it would have been fine," Wiens said.
King mentioned the main problem was the design of the phone. He said: "Think how much easier it would have been to manage the Note 7 problems, too, if it had been possible to simply remove the battery. Addressing safety concerns by making the batteries removable in future generations will have the side-benefit of making the phones easier to recycle, too."