We support the transition to a circular economy to reduce waste and preserve valuable natural resources. We’re targeting zero waste to landfill, encouraging customers to return equipment for reuse and recycling, and cutting down on plastics.

Case study:

Router returns reap environmental benefits

We want to show customers the difference they can make by returning unwanted equipment to motivate them to return more. We’ve been working with The Carbon Trust to calculate the environmental benefit of product returns. In 2020, refurbishment of home hubs and set top boxes avoided 11,400 tonnes of CO2e, 168 tonnes of waste electronic equipment and 160 tonnes of plastic.

  • Our internal waste management policy promotes a culture of continuous improvement as we work towards zero waste to landfill. We’re now developing a waste action plan to translate that policy into practical measures to help us get there. 

    We produced nearly 33,000 tonnes of waste worldwide this year, 19% less than last year. This reduction is mainly as a result of less office and catering waste, as many of our colleagues worked from home due to Covid-19, and building closures related to our Better Workplace Programme and divestments. We recovered or recycled 98.9% of this waste – 99.6% in the UK – and we’re continually looking for ways to recycle more, for example Openreach is exploring ways to recycle blue plastic rope, which is used to draw cables through ducts.  

    We use specialist contractors to deal with hazardous waste responsibly. This year, we introduced an app to help our engineers identify hazardous waste and simplify regulatory reporting. Through our partnership with N2S, a technology lifecycle management company, we recovered 257.5 tonnes of legacy equipment and cable from our exchanges this year, avoiding landfill. From this, 257.3 tonnes was recycled and 0.2 tonnes reused, avoiding an estimated 414 tonnes of CO2e emissions. We also used N2S’s newly developed refining process which uses bacterial bioleaching technology to recover gold from printed circuit boards. 

  • Electronic waste is the world’s fastest growing domestic waste stream. We aim to minimise the amount of materials used in our products and make them easy to return, reuse or recycle. 

    We encourage and incentivise customers to return products for recycling or refurbishment. EE offers a Trade In scheme, and BT customers must return home hubs and set-top boxes at the end of their contract to avoid incurring a fee. In 2020, we refurbished or recycled around 700,000 home hubs and set-top boxes, and worked with The Carbon Trust to calculate the environmental benefit. To help customers get the most out of their devices, we now offer a same-day or next-day repair service at selected EE stores, and we’ve also launched a wireless diagnostic tool “Fix My Device” to identify and resolve issues with mobile devices or software.

  • Our plastics policy includes our goal to ensure that 100% of the plastic packaging we procure and send to customers can be reused, recycled or composted by the end of March 2025. It also commits us to recycling more of the plastics we use in our own operations. 

    This year we have been working to baseline our plastics footprint. In 2020 we used 547 tonnes of plastic packaging to deliver products to our customers. We identified areas of plastic use where data is not currently available – we will refine our model as more data becomes available over time. A further 113 tonnes of plastic was avoided through engaging suppliers, engineers and operations teams in plastic reduction initiatives. We’ve developed packaging principles for BT and EE consumer devices in line with our environment policy. These include moving to plastic-free packaging. Alternatives include cardboard packaging printed with soy-based inks and compostable bags made from materials like potato starch.