Ten years of O2 Recycle: three million devices later, how far have we come?

A lot has happened in the last ten years (writes Nicola Green, Director of Corporate Affairs, O2). We’ve welcomed eight royal babies. London hosted the Olympics. And we’ve put environmental issues on the national agenda like never before. We’re all waking up to a more environmentally friendly way of life – from little changes like taking reusable bags for the weekly shop to fitting solar panels. At my house, recycling’s become a part of our day-to-day. Our Smart Meter’s changed the way we use electricity (my kids have stopped leaving the lights on in empty rooms!), we cook smarter so there’s less food waste, and we’re trying our best to use less plastic whenever we can.

It’s been a busy decade for O2 too. Ten years ago, an O2 customer recycled the very first phone under our newly launched O2 Recycle scheme. Today, over three million devices later, our customers and the environment are still reaping the benefits.

Taking a stand for sustainability

It’s clear that Britain has embraced mobile and the endless opportunities it unlocks. It’s always been important to us at O2 to help people make the most of what new phones have to offer. But we also know we have another responsibility. A responsibility to do the right thing for the planet, and for our customers.

That’s why, in 2009, we launched our pioneering O2 Recycle scheme. And since it opened, we have diverted 450 tonnes of waste from landfill.

Environmental concerns are high on everyone’s agenda. We’re committed to doing our bit to promote a more sustainable way of business. That means helping our customers engage with O2 Recycle and dispose of old phones responsibly. To make this as easy as possible for them to do we’ve:

  • Made O2 Recycle a built-in part of the online upgrade process. So when customers are ready to upgrade to a new device, they’re automatically directed to O2 Recycle.
  • Paid out a total of £226 million to UK customers trading in their devices. Offering cash-back towards a new device means customers don’t need to compromise on being environmentally conscious if they want the latest handset.
  • Ensured that O2 Recycle complements O2 Refresh and O2 Custom Plans. So all our customers can use the value of their old device to get the handset they want.

Reducing our impact

And it’s working. So far we’ve saved the equivalent of 35 London buses’ worth of phone waste from landfill. Instead, devices are being data-wiped and reused, or recycled.

For the majority of devices we receive, around 95% are in good enough condition to be resold straight back into the market. Most of these sales take place in the UK, which reduces carbon emissions from transport. And it ensures our UK customers can benefit from great value devices.

Doing our bit

We’re proud to have the longest-running UK major network operator recycling initiative with O2 Recycle. But it doesn’t stop there. Earlier this year, we announced we’d achieved recertification to the Carbon Trust Standard for Supply Chain at level 3, the highest possible level. We were also the first mobile company in the world to achieve the Carbon Trust Triple Standard for carbon, water and waste, which means we’re actively reducing our environmental impact each year, and taking a best-practice approach to our water use, waste streams and emissions output.

For customers, we were the first to introduce an Eco rating for new phones – working with manufacturers to assess handset sustainability credentials, providing an overall rating to help customers make an informed decision. And we’re now stocking a range of iPhone cases made from 100% biodegradable and natural materials with zero plastics. Additionally, in the last year we’ve sold over 250,000 phones without chargers, reducing the pile-up of unwanted chargers and electronic waste.

A lot has changed in the mobile world since we launched O2 Recycle. Phones have become a major part of our lives, but so has climate change and thinking about what we can do to tackle it. We’ve made some great progress – both in terms of helping our customers make more environmentally friendly choices and cutting our own impact. But there’s definitely more to be done, and I’m looking forward to seeing where the next ten years takes us.

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