With any major recall, there's always the question of what will happen to the defective products that get sent back to their manufacturer and what impact it may have on the environment, as well as the possible backlash for wasted labor. That goes double, if not quadruple, for the Samsung Galaxy Note 7; disposal of mobile phones, even according to applicable laws, has a big impact and is a waste of valuable materials, and the Note 7 was recalled twice. Additionally, Samsung halted production on the device, likely with many units in at least partial production. With phones, especially this one, involving hazardous materials and precious elements that are difficult and costly to extract, the question of the day is what Samsung plans to do with all of its Note 7 units.
Of all the curious parties, TechRadar worked up the courage to reach out to Samsung about the matter, and got a pretty nebulous response for their trouble. “We have a process in place to safely dispose of the phones in accordance with all government regulations,” read the response from a Samsung representative. In South Korea, while initiatives to aid in recycling mass amounts of e-waste do exist, the laws concerning the process and requirements for manufacturers and owners are tenuous at best. This means that, since Samsung does not have to comply with the laws of the lands that they receive Galaxy Note 7 returns from, they could technically just bury the entire stock in special safe cases somewhere remote, or throw them in a landfill and call it a day.
At this point, with the PR damage already done by the Galaxy Note 7, it would be Samsung's best bet to gain some good PR by disposing of the millions of Galaxy Note 7 units out there as sustainably as possible, though that approach will cost them some serious extra coin. If the phones are not disposed of in a sustainable fashion, environmental and economic considerations are just the tip of the iceberg. Components could end up being found and harvested by somebody else, leading to other exploding gadgets, and with today's top-notch data recovery tools, any solid state or flash media that's not properly recycled poses a security risk, even if the parts are disassembled and scattered. Whatever Samsung decides to do, it's a safe bet that everybody from lawmakers to industry media will be watching closely.