O2 ‘streets ahead of competitors’ on e-waste recycling

Mobile operator O2 has saved 142,000kg of waste from landfill through its O2 Recycle initiative, paying out £100m for old phones and tablets in the process.

The group’s recycling service, which gives gadget owners cash payments for their old digital devices, has received over 1.4 million devices since its launch in 2009.

Commenting on the latest figures, released on Thursday, environmental commentator and Forum for the Future founder Jonathon Porritt said: “There’s a real challenge facing society with e-waste being the fastest growing waste stream on earth. There’s still much to do on this, but O2 is streets ahead of its competitors.

“This £100m pay-out shows that the more you show consumers the value in their old devices, the more they’re eager to recycle. It’s a win for them and for the planet.”

Landmark figure

During 2014, 420,000 devices were recycled by O2. iPhones accounted for 41% of the total, making it the most common gadget to go through the system. O2 Recycle repurposes nine out of 10 gadgets by extending the functional life of these devices to cut down their environmental impact.

The O2 Recycle scheme also gives value back to over 1,200 business customers, with many businesses choosing to donate all money received from recycled devices directly to Think Big’s youth initiative, which O2 is partnered with.

Ronan Dunne, chief executive of O2’s owner Telefónica UK, said: “When we launched O2 Recycle, our ambition was to offer people a simple, environmentally friendly way of disposing of their old tech, and to reward them for doing so by giving them money back, which is why we’re proud to have reached this landmark figure.”

Outdated phones

O2’s announcement comes less than a day after the release of an e-waste report from the Green Alliance, which discovered that as many as 125 million UK phones are unused. An increased focus on recycling and repairing consumer electronics could cut the carbon footprint of each device by up to half, the Alliance said.

Electronics is the fastest-growing waste stream in the world, as devices are often discarded before they are unrepairable or technically outdated. For every additional year of use, a phone’s carbon footprint is reduced by nearly 30%, meaning that it becomes more environmentally efficient. By avoiding the need to produce another phone, the emissions associated with its use are therefore reduced. 

O2 is also seeking to reduce waste in its own operations, with a target to send zero waste to landfill from its offices and retail stores to landfill by 2015. Figures from 2011 show the company was on target, with 80% of office waste recycled. Late last year, edie reported that O2 had become the first mobile telecommunications company in the world to achieve the Carbon Trust Triple Standard for its carbon, water and waste reduction efforts.

Luke Nicholls

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