After nearly five months of campaigning and global protests, Samsung officially published its plan to deal with the 4.3 million Galaxy Note 7 devices produced and recalled worldwide following battery faults.
“People around the world signed petitions, emailed Samsung’s CEO, demonstrated in cities around the world, and finally Samsung has listened. This is major win for everyone that took action, and a step towards shifting the way we produce and dispose of electronics,” said Jude Lee, Global Senior Campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia.
“While we welcome this news, Samsung must share as soon as possible more detailed timelines on when it will implement its promises, as well as how it intends to change its production system to make sure this never happens again,” added Lee.
This company’s commitment came within days from the launch of Galaxy S8, the first Samsung phone to be released since the Note 7 incident. The phone will be the first test to see how the company will apply these commitments to proceeding models. In a public statement released on its website, Samsung committed to:
- refurbishing and selling the recalled phones or use them as rental phones,
- detach salvageable components, such as semiconductors and camera modules, for reuse or sale; and,
- extract metals using “environmentally friendly methods”.
The IT giant also claimed it will be joining a new research conducted by the European Union aimed at developing a new environmentally friendly technology to recycle smartphones.
“This is a very welcome move from Samsung, being one of the world’s leading smartphone companies. For them to accept every single Greenpeace demand to reuse the almost new components and those that have the highest environmental costs, push for efficient disassembly and more effective recovery systems, among others is a step in the right direction and is truly what we call true innovation,” said Abigail Aguilar, Detox Campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines.
Electronics production, including smartphones, is incredibly energy and resource intensive, according to a Greenpeace USA report published in February 2017 on the impacts of smartphone production since 2007. According to a United Nations report in 2014, e-waste volumes from small IT products, such as mobile phones and personal computers are predicted to rise globally to 50 million metric tons or more every year in 2017. This represents a massive waste of resources, and a source of contamination from hazardous chemicals.
In the Southeast Asian region, the International Data Corporation (IDC) Asia/Pacific Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker estimates the total smartphone shipments to nearly 28 million units in the second quarter of 2016. Countries in the SEA region tracked by IDC’s local and regional analysts are Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
In 2014, Samsung accounted for 13.3% of smartphones shipments in the Philippines, second only to local brand Cherry Mobile’s 21.9% market share. The growing smartphone adoption among Filipinos drives the Philippines smartphone market to a high 20% year-over-year (YoY) growth. This puts the Philippines as the fastest-growing smartphone market in Southeast Asia to date.
A survey conducted by Greenpeace revealed that the Philippines has the highest number of phones possessed by an individual, with 6.76 mobile phones per capita. The countries surveyed include USA, China, Indonesia, and South Korea, among others.
“Filipinos being tech lovers have the power in their hands to influence Samsung to transition from the current business model of producing tons of electronic waste to closing the loop, tackling overconsumption and transitioning from programmed obsolescence to repairability,” said Aguilar.
Greenpeace will further push the tech sector in the coming month to rethink its impact on the planet. The Galaxy S8 and best-selling models from 14top IT companies’ will be scored to inform customers on how repairable the phones are.