Waste is bad for the environment and bad for business. We want to contribute to an economy that drives down waste and uses resources again and again. 

Getting drastic on plastics

We’ve launched a new plastics policy this year. In it, we’ve set a goal to ensure that 100% of the plastic packaging we procure and send to customers can be reused, recycled or composted by 2025.

We’ve already taken steps to meet this pledge. We cut plastic wrapping used to deliver bulk shipments of phonebooks across the UK from 67.8 tonnes in 2018 to 25.7 tonnes in 2019. Last year we shrunk the plastic surrounds for the SIM cards we send to BT customers and we’ll do the same for EE customers later in 2020.

This goal is about the plastic we buy, so we need suppliers to play their part. This year, we added single use plastic usage into the environmental questionnaire that informs our procurement decisions. Over the next year, we also plan to encourage relevant suppliers to adopt a plastics clause in our contracts, similar to our climate clause.

Openreach brought together engineers, suppliers and procurement teams to map out 600 opportunities to reduce plastic and other packaging, as well as single use plastics, through their ‘Waste Warriors’ project this year. They’ve already worked with suppliers to eliminate plastic packaging for some of the gear most frequently used by Openreach engineers. For example, one supplier has stopped using plastic bags to package the 30,000 safety helmets it provides to us.

Our plastics policy also commits us to recycle more of the plastic we use in our own operations. We are working with our catering suppliers to engage with our colleagues to reduce single use plastic in our restaurants – for example, last year we stopped using plastic straws, stirrers and cutlery. And our ‘getting drastic on plastic’ colleague engagement campaign won Ethical Corporation’s 2019 award for purpose driven communications. 

Giving old equipment new life

In order to reduce waste from our products, we firstly look to minimise the amount of materials used to make and package them. We build this principle into our product design and procurement.

Secondly, we aim to keep materials in circulation, even after a product is no longer needed. We encourage customers to return products for recycling or refurbishment through, for example, EE’s Recycle & Reward programme which provides a free postal pack to trade in or return used phones.

We’ve introduced a clause in new BT customer contracts to incentivise return of products and reduce electronic waste. Customers are informed that they will incur a fee if they don’t return home hubs and TV set-top boxes at the end of their contract. By refurbishing and recycling used equipment, we will reduce the amount of e-waste going to landfill sites.

In our own operations, we partner with recyclers and suppliers to recover and purchase used equipment like servers. This year 319 tonnes of used BT equipment were processed (by N2S), 315 tonnes were recycled and over 4 tonnes reused, saving over 952 tonnes of CO2e emissions.