With the rapid manufacture and consumption of electronics, issues around their sustainable management -from manufacture to disposal—routinely make headlines. Consumers, investors, and others who prioritize sustainability are paying attention to what electronics manufacturers’ say they are doing to address the issues—especially the majors, like Samsung.
In this Q&A, Mark Newton, head of Corporate Sustainability, Samsung Electronics America, discusses some of the company’s programs to keep products and or materials in circulation, who Samsung partners with and how, including an interesting collaboration with Patagonia. Newton explains how Samsung is incorporating plastic material from ocean-bound fishing nets into Galaxy devices and monitors; and he touches on some company goals moving forward.
Waste360: Can you highlight some of Samsung U.S.’s key accomplishments in addressing sustainability issues along a products’ lifecycle and in its operations?
Newton: Samsung puts sustainability at the heart of our work from our products, to our operations and how we empower people to join us and take action. We look at sustainability through every stage of the product life cycle.
As far as “products”:
- Sustainable materials: We’ve used more than 310,291 tons of recycled plastic in our products globally since 2009. And we’re on track to use 500,000 tons by 2030.
- Responsible recycling: We’ve repurposed or recycled 5.07 billion metric tons as of 2021. In March, Samsung was recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency for leadership in responsible recycling of e-waste for the eighth year in a row.
- Energy efficiency: Samsung has helped reduce more than 334 million metric tons of CO2 emissions since 2009 – that’s like taking 71 million cars off the road.
- Renewable energy: The SolarCell remote for 2022 Samsung TVs is powered by spare radio frequencies from devices like Wi-Fi routers. The aim is to eliminate the disposal of more than 200 million AA batteries from landfills. A single, fully charged battery can last up to two years, making it an economical alternative to disposable batteries.
In the area of “operations,” Samsung uses 100 percent renewable energy to power its facilities in the U.S., including manufacturing operations.
And as far as “empowering action,” no company can do this alone. That’s why we invite people to join us in making everyday changes that have a meaningful impact on the environment.
Just a couple of examples of how we invite others to join the sustainability effort are our community engagement initiatives, such as Solve for Tomorrow and Climate Superstars, focused on improving environmental literacy and supporting solutions to environmental challenges, including climate change.
Waste360: How do your drop-off locations work, and who do you partner with in this effort?
Newton: In the U.S., Galaxy customers can drop off devices at over 1,700 Samsung locations and at over 500+ uBreakiFix locations through partnership. We accept all makes and models of electronics ranging from notebooks (laptops) to desktop printers, and gaming consoles. A full list of accepted products can be found on our website here. To date, we have collected and recycled over 100 million pounds of e-waste per year in the U.S. annually.
Partners are at the core of our program whether non-profits, advocacy organizations, or other businesses and, through them, Samsung can identify resource-efficient product life cycles.
Key partners involved in drop-off e-waste collection and recycling are EarthEye, Call2Recycle, ubreakiFix, and Best Buy.
- EarthEye: Samsung leverages the Basel Action Network (BAN) service, a global GPS-based tracking system to ensure that e-waste is handled properly through the recycling process.
- Call2Recycle: Samsung partners with Call2Recycle in the U.S. and Canada for takeback of rechargeable batteries and mobile phones.
- Best Buy: Our appliance haul-away programs are run multiple times a year in partnership with Best Buy to help ensure products are responsibly recycled.
- ubreakiFix: In alignment with our drop-off partnership, ubreakiFix collects and recycles under the same ethical standards, ensuring any e-waste is properly recycled.
More details on how all of our partners support our collection efforts, energy consumption evaluations, and further commitment to sustainability can be found in our 2022 environmental toolkit here.
Waste360: How does your trade-in program work?
Newton: In addition to e-waste drop-off sites, customers have the option to trade in their old device for a credit, allowing Samsung the opportunity to refurbish an old phone into a Certified Re-Newed device. Samsung Certified Re-Newed devices give you a like-new phone experience with a guaranteed warranty, while saving money, reducing waste, and reducing carbon emissions associated with recycling and manufacturing.
Waste360: What’s Galaxy for the Planet and what sustainability goals does it addresses?
Newton: Galaxy for the Planet outlines Samsung’s commitment to acting more sustainably across its mobile product life cycles and business operations.
We consider areas from product design all the way to disposal of our Galaxy products—for example, use of power-efficient semiconductor chips, sustainable packaging, energy-saving technology, and the ability to upcycle old devices.
Samsung Electronics is also investing in new and innovative eco-conscious materials and recycled materials in all mobile products. This includes a newly developed recycled plastic material that gives ocean-bound discarded fishing nets new life, as they’re incorporated into various Galaxy devices and monitors.
Here are key 2025 targets to reduce our environmental footprint and lessen resource depletion:
- Achieve zero waste to landfill
- Incorporate recycled material in all new mobile products
- Eliminate all plastics in mobile packaging
- Reduce standby power consumption of all smartphone chargers to below 0.005W
Waste360: Tell us about Samsung’s new self-repair program.
Newton: This program offers expanded convenience to Galaxy customers interested in taking repair processes into their own hands. Samsung’s Self-Repair program, in partnership with iFixit, offers genuine device parts; repair tools; and intuitive, visual, step-by-step repair guides to help inform customers along the way.
Samsung offers an expansive customer-first care network that provides customers with continued access to services such as same-day repair and mail-in for Galaxy devices at over 2,000 locations nationwide.
Samsung’s ‘We Come To You’ offering provides in-person service at customers’ homes within a 30- to 60-minute drive via service van. Repairs usually take about an hour, saving customers time, making it more convenient to receive in-warranty and out-of-warranty repair services.
Waste360: What are some other interesting partnerships and can you tell us the story behind them?
Newton: Earlier this year, Samsung and Patagonia joined forces to find a feasible, effective, and expandable way to combat the microplastics that result from textiles and laundry. Our ocean plastics recovery and Patagonia collaboration are part of our larger water stewardship commitment, exemplified by our “A” Rating for water security in our operations by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).
With each new generation of products, we launch, as seen in our latest Bespoke laundry line of washers and dryers, we want our customers to know they are investing in long-lasting appliances that will enable them to make every day, sustainability choices.