Sustainability : Phone Parts From Fishing Nets

Samsung’s new Galaxy smartphone range makes use of repurposed discarded nylon fishing nets which have been used to create a material from which to manufacture the brackets which hold the volume and power keys in place.

Combining Sustainability And Innovation

As part of the Samsung Electronics ‘Galaxy for the Planet’ vision, the company says that it has combined sustainability and innovation to develop a new material that gives ocean-bound plastics new life. The company’s goal is to use recycled material across all new mobile products by 2025, incorporating various recycled materials within its products.

Helping To Tackle The Problem of Discarded Nets

It is estimated that 640,000 tons of fishing nets are abandoned and discarded every year (UNEP figures). These nylon nets do not naturally break down and are likely to litter the oceans for hundreds of years. The results are the trapping and entangling of marine life, damage to precious coral reefs and natural habitats, and small pieces of the nets ending up in human food and water sources.

Devices Shown At ‘Unpacked’ Event

Samsung, which revealed its new Galaxy devices on 9 February at its ‘Unpacked 2022’ (biannual) event says that they reflect the company’s ongoing effort to eliminate single-use plastics, and to expand its use of other eco-conscious materials, such as recycled post-consumer material (PCM) and recycled paper. Samsung says that this transformation will help it to bring leading product design to market and deliver better environmental impact at the same time.

Water Bottles Too

The company says that it is also using recycled/repurposed discarded water bottles to make materials that can be used to manufacture parts for its devices.

Other Measures

Other measures that Samsung says it’s taking as part of its ‘Galaxy for the Planet’ sustainability vision are:

– Taking steps to eliminate all plastics in mobile packaging by 2025.

– Reducing standby power consumption for all its smartphone chargers to below 0.005W by 2025.

E-Waste, Including Phones, Still A Big Problem

Even though Samsung is taking measures and has a plan to create and incorporate recycled materials into its new devices, there is still the big global challenge of a growing mound of e-waste to tackle. 50 million tonnes of electronic waste is produced each year and a 2019 report by Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) and the UN E-Waste Coalition predicted that, at the current rate, global e-waste production could reach 120 million tonnes per year by 2050. This equates to electronic waste weighing more than all the commercial airliners ever made! Phone handsets and other devices are part of the electronic waste problem and although some schemes are under way to recover the precious metals for them, more needs to be done to create greener devices.

Ethical Phones

Ethical phones (e.g., the likes of Fairphone), and other devices which are manufactured with fair trade, welfare of workers, repair, and recycling already built into the business model, are another way that some companies are trying to improve sustainability. These devices could have more positive environmental impact than traditional manufacture and could slow and cut the flow of e-waste, plus help countries to meet their environmental targets.

The Right To Repair

Greater adoption of the ‘right-to-repair’ is another way that device manufacturers can help slow down the rate and reduce the pile of electronic waste. For example, Apple is introducing a “self-service repair” programme which gives iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 customers access to parts and information which will allow them to repair their own phones.

What Does This Mean For Your Organisation?

This combination of sustainability and innovation is a positive idea which appears to make something good come from a serious ecological issue. It’s a shame that only some parts of the phone can be made from the discarded nets but it’s nevertheless a start, and its also good that this is part of an ongoing plan to use recycled material across all new mobile products from Samsung by 2025. Although this is promising, it is going to take a much greater effort, investment, and some significant innovations from manufacturers across several sectors and throughout supply chains to find more ways to make more of an impact on the problem of growing mountains of polluting e-waste. Much greater efforts are needed to create devices which are ethical, make the maximum use of recycled materials, and have sustainability at the core of their design.

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