How is Telstra leading the way on electronics recycling?
Telstra has a unique opportunity to lead the way in stewarding retired electronics, and providing solutions to e-waste, launching a refreshed and renewed commitment to address the growing problem of e-waste in a more holistic and coordinated manner.
It’s an integrated approach that moves beyond focusing on ‘end-of-pipe’ recycling solutions, and prioritises whole of supply chain initiatives to reduce the problem.
We’ve called the strategy ‘Unlocking Hidden Value’, because we genuinely believe there is value to be created for our customers, our business, our supply chain, the community and the environment.
Telstra will responsibly manage the equipment we use, provide customers and the public with take- back, reuse and recycling opportunities, and work to influence supply chain decisions to reduce e-waste and drive more circular economy thinking.
Better managing e-waste, and ultimately reducing its generation, will take time. Current costs, complex supply chains, and consumer attitudes and behaviour are all barriers to overcome.
Along with global thought leaders we want to accelerate change. ‘End-of-pipe’ just looks at managing e-waste as best we can. We need to look at this as a product stewardship and circular economy opportunity.
This approach will need to be adopted throughout every phase of a product’s life cycle. A core focus on influencing product design and manufacturing is required, so that whole products or components can be reused and/or recycled.
Four key priorities and goals guide Telstra’s proposed actions and inform targets and performance indicators.
■ Product recovery, reuse and recycling – our goal is to increase the recovery rate of end-of-life electronics by providing convenient product collection opportunities. Actions include product take-back offers to employees and customers, offering new products unpinned by electronics stewardship principles and continuing our leadership of MobileMuster. Telstra aims to increase mobile handset collection rates (available phones) to 33 percent by 2020, up from the 2016 level of 28 percent.
■ Outreach and education – Telstra seeks to be a trusted voice on e-waste, with a role to inform and educate the community. This will be achieved through education campaigns, hosting e-waste events and publicly promoting the need to understand and address the full life cycle impacts of products. Telstra aims to help increase consumer awareness of mobile phone recycling from 78 percent to 90 percent by 2020.
■ Responsible end-of-life management – Telstra’s goal is to ensure that when electronic and electrical products are disposed of, reuse and recycling is done in a secure and responsible manner. Actions will include ensuring suppliers meet acceptable environmental and social standards, establishing e-waste recycling hubs at Telstra offices and advocating avoidance of disposal of e-waste to landfill. Telstra aims to have 100 percent of our e-waste recycling vendors certified by 2018 and 98 percent of company e-waste collected, diverted from landfill.
■ Simplification and reporting – Telstra will update internal processes to encourage and make it easy for staff to responsibly manage electronic waste generated internally. This will include simplifying finance, product disposal and asset management guidelines and ensuring ongoing monitoring and reporting of performance. Telstra aims to increase employee participation and report performance on time.
This strategy has 34 actions to achieve the goals identified above and, here, we highlight a few:
■ Maximise product lifespans – Extending the useful life of a product delivers significant environmental benefits. The energy that is used or embodied in the materials and the manufacturing process is largely lost when a product is disposed of.
Redeployment and reuse of electronic and electrical products or components can therefore deliver significant energy and greenhouse reductions as the product continues to be used and the embodied energy is fully utilised. Telstra will develop new product offers underpinned by device reuse principles (trade-in, leasing, buy-back) and implement an internal reuse program for telecommunications devices (for example, desk phones).
■ MobileMuster – As a founding member of MobileMuster, Telstra wants to drive this flagship take-back program and expand its reach and scope. Telstra will seek to enhance MobileMuster’s marketing messages and position, expand industry participation and expand the product coverage of MobileMuster. In this way, Telstra believes an existing and well-known program can accelerate increased take-back and appropriate recycling of devices.
■ Telstra procurement – Last financial year, the Telstra Group purchased goods and services worth $7.4 billion from about 4400 suppliers. Key areas of purchasing are electronics and network components (around 44 percent of our third party expenditure) as well as services (around 56 percent).
This large spend puts us in a position to work with our suppliers to positively influence their environmental, social and ethical performance. A panel of pre-qualified recycling vendors meeting Telstra’s environmental and social standards will be established. The consolidation of asset disposition services will drive improved service outcomes and equipment recovery, reuse, redeployment and recycling within Telstra.
Tracking progress and performance
Telstra aims to combine an easy and convenient reuse and recycling system with strong governance to track progress and performance.
There are three pillars that underpin Telstra’s strategy and its role managing and reducing e-waste:
- Telstra as a retailer is in a position to take a lead in providing easy-to-access and effective collection and take-back systems to responsibly recover, reuse and recycle greater amounts of e-waste.
- Telstra is ideally positioned to undertake broad community awareness and education programs to encourage participation in recovery and recycling and increase knowledge about the life cycle of electrical products and how to minimise environmental impacts.
- Telstra has a shared responsibility with suppliers, partners and vendors to address the e-waste being generated now and to work to design and produce electronic products that have less environmental impact. To date, Telstra has supported many take-back and recycling schemes; however, existing schemes are limited in that they focus on recovery and recycling.
An enhanced focus on electronics stewardship requires action both up and down the supply chain and is consistent with Telstra’s environment strategy – an integrated approach to enable us to meet customer expectations, differentiate our offering and minimise the impacts and risks associated with environmental issues.
For Telstra, the strategy and reinvigorated approach is about being responsive to our customers and the community. Consumers and business are increasingly aware of the need for responsible electronics disposal, but are also mindful of issues such as data security and privacy.
We are fortunate to have had direct experience in this space for more than 15 years now so we are able to design (and have already designed) this strategy, and supporting actions to address fundamental consumer and business concerns and barriers.
Communication is, of course, key, and all our actions will be complemented by building on existing education and awareness programs, as well as doing new work to teach people the environmental and social benefits of better e-waste reuse and recycling.
A more connected digital world delivers a wide range of economic, environmental and social benefits. However, as electronic equipment opens doors to improve the way we live, work and play, the use of more devices creates more e-waste. Not surprisingly, e-waste is currently growing faster than any other waste stream.
The need for action on end-of-life electronics has never been more important. The rapid evolution of ICT and other electronic products is driving a significant growth in electronics waste globally.
The 2014 Global E-waste Monitor, released by the United Nations University in 2015 found 41.8 million tonnes of e-waste was generated in 2014, but only 6.5 million tonnes recycled. Globally three million tonnes of small ICT equipment was dumped in 2014.
As director of Consumer Mobile, my role includes innovating new products and offers, and leveraging electronics product stewardship principles. Unlocking hidden value is the strategy that will drive a large part of that innovation as Telstra works to be part of the solution to e-waste.
Kevin Teoh is director of Consumer Mobile, Telstra.
This article originally appeared in issue 5 of CWS magazine. Get your free, obligation-free trial to the mag here.