An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Lost in the hype about Samsung permanently pulling the plug on its exploding phone is this: The failure of the Galaxy Note 7 is an environmental tragedy, regardless of what Samsung decides will happen to the 2.5 million devices it manufactured. Early Tuesday morning, Samsung announced it has permanently discontinued and stopped promoting the Galaxy Note 7, and has asked its customers to return their devices for a refund or exchange. A Samsung spokesperson told me the phones will not be repaired, refurbished, or resold ever again: "We have a process in place to safely dispose of the phones," the company said. There are two main things to consider here: First, though smartphones weigh less than a pound, it was estimated in 2013 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers estimated that it takes roughly 165 pounds of raw mined materials to make the average cell phone, a number that is certainly higher for the Note 7, being both one of the largest and most advanced smartphones phones ever created. Second, much of that mined material is going to be immediately lost. This is because we are terrible at recycling smartphones -- of the 50-or-so elements that are in a Galaxy Note 7, we can only recover about a dozen of them through recycling. Lost are most of the rare earth elements, which are generally the most environmentally destructive and human labor-intensive to mine. This loss of material is why smartphones are not usually recycled even several years into their lifespans -- they are refurbished and resold to cell phone insurance companies and customers in developing markets. This is because the recoverable elements within any given smartphone are only worth a couple bucks; it is far more environmentally sustainable and more profitable to extend the life of a smartphone than it is to disassemble it and turn it into something else. There is a potential silver lining here: Just as oil spills give scientists an opportunity to try out new cleanup techniques, a large-scale smartphone recall may allow us to learn more about how to recycle smartphones.