Recycling the lithium-ion batteries inside your phone or laptop is a regular fire hazard for those charged with disassembling the devices, according to a story in The Washington Post. Cobalt, when crushed, can lead to what is called a “thermal event,” the likes of which many may remember from the exploding Samsung Note 7 debacle of 2016.
For recyclers, taking apart many Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft products require metal tongs and fireproof bins at the ready. In California, a 2016 lithium-ion battery-related fire caused $8.5 million worth of damage to a recycling facility. The labor-intensive process of disassembling a single iPhone takes at least 40 minutes.
The root of the problem, according to The Washington Post, is the tech industry’s relentless hurtle towards thinner devices. Removable batteries are far safer and require less labor, but they require an extra layer of protection that would make our smartphones a little bit thicker. Attacking the problem in a different way, Apple is reportedly developing a robot capable of recycling materials itself.
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