Tuesday, June 6, 2023

In Samsung’s Sustainability Push, a Phone Made From Fishing Nets


After launching its Galaxy for the Planet initiative last August, tech giant Samsung has started delivering on its promise to use more recycled materials in devices and packaging.

Samsung has announced that its latest phone series is its most sustainable yet, with the devices and packaging incorporating recycled materials the brand describes as ‘eco-conscious’.

The new phones, which will be available in Samsung channels from March 11, launch as interest in sustainability is growing, and people are becoming increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of their gadgets. After all, that smartphones are not exactly eco-friendly has been comprehensively proven.

This is a concern the tech giant is seeking to address with its S22 series, which includes the S22 and the S22+, and was crafted to be ‘both beautiful and environmentally responsible’, with sustainable materials – like plastic made from reclaimed fishing nets – featured in its design.

Samsung announces a sustainability plan

The launch follows Samsung announcing its Galaxy for the Planet initiative in August 2021, a scheme to implement ‘tangible climate actions across its business’, which encompasses a range of initial targets it plans to hit by 2025. The overall aim is to lessen its resource depletion and environmental footprint.

Outlining the targets in a recent press release, Samsung revealed its first goal is to incorporate recycled material in all new mobile products by 2025. It says it’s ‘investing in new and innovative eco-conscious materials’, noting that strength, aesthetics and durability are major factors it will consider when choosing these materials.

Image courtesy Samsung

Secondly, it wants to eliminate all plastics in mobile packaging by 2025, incorporating ‘eco-conscious solutions’ and reducing, removing, and replacing unnecessary resources and materials traditionally used in device packaging.

Its third aim focusses on saving power: the company says it plans to reduce the standby power consumption of all of its smartphone chargers to below 0.005W by 2025. 

Its fourth challenge is also an ambitious one: Samsung wants to achieve zero waste to landfill by 2025, saying it is currently ‘minimising waste’ generated at its mobile worksites. Additionally, it plans to ‘reduce e-waste on a global scale’ by extending its products’ lifecycles and implementing upcycling and trade-in programs.

Galaxy S22 and S22+

When it comes to the S22 and S22+ devices, Samsung’s work towards these targets can be seen most clearly in the materials incorporated into the design of the phones themselves.

The devices are made with 20 percent reclaimed fishing nets – which make up the biggest source of ocean plastic pollution and pose a major threat to marine life.

According to Samsung, the nets are collected through a partner organization, which works with local fishermen who collect the discarded nets from the Indian Ocean and neighboring coastal areas. (It stresses that ‘Samsung does not directly recover fishing nets from the ocean’).

Smartphones made from eco-conscious materials

In a press release about the new model, in which it discussed the handsets’ eco-credentials, Samsung said: “As our most eco-conscious device ever, the Galaxy S22 series pioneers mobile technology while supporting our planet. 

Image courtesy Burkhard Kaufhold on Unsplash

“Plastic pollution poses serious threats to our environment, and discarded fishing nets are especially harmful to marine life and our oceans. By collaborating with leading organizations, Samsung helps recover discarded fishing nets and transforms them into a high-performance material for our smartphones. 

“This material – used in the Galaxy S22 series’ key bracket – contains 20 percent recycled ocean-bound plastic from discarded fishing nets. The Galaxy S22 series also incorporates post-consumer recycled material in its speaker module, as well as the inner parts of the power and volume keys.”

Recycled paper and plastic

In addition to the device’s materials, its packaging is more sustainable, too, featuring 100 percent recycled paper and recycled plastic.

Discussing the devices’ packaging, the release said: “In addition to ocean-bound plastics, we use 100 percent recycled paper for the Galaxy S22’s packaging and include a protective film made from recycled plastic. 

“Every case is also designed with UL-certified, eco-conscious materials – such as recycled post-consumer plastics or bio-based substances. These purposeful innovations are the latest example of Samsung’s commitment to doing more with less as part of Galaxy for the Planet.”

Sustainable phones…or sustainable phone use?

Whether the phones prove to be a hit with consumers is yet to be seen. They do offer some tangible benefits in terms of cutting down on environmentally harmful products like single-use plastics. However, this is not the only sustainability issue facing the smartphone industry, with the handsets gobbling up energy.

While, for most, the devices are essential for everyday life, those concerned about their planetary impact may find a recent report by Greenspector, looking into the environmental footprint created by using popular apps, could inspire them to cut down on screen time.

Discussing the report, Lotfi Belkhir, associate professor of engineering at McMaster University, told CNBC something consumers should realize is that large amounts of screen time are ‘equivalent to digital pollution and digital waste’.

She added: “I think the idea of digital pollution should start making its way towards the masses, that excessive and unnecessary use of smartphones can be just as bad as throwing away your plastic in the street.”

So while tech giants are moving forward with new materials and energy-saving targets, conscious consumers may choose to slash their screen time if they really want to use their smartphones more sustainably.

The Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22+ will be widely available in Samsung channels from March 11, 2022. The phones will launch in three colorways: Phantom Black, Phantom White, and Green and Pink Gold.


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