Waste management and recycling KPI
We are careful with resources – and likewise with waste. Our waste management throughout the Group is organized consistently in keeping with our “International Waste Management Framework.” On the basis of this framework, our national companies define measurable targets, under their own responsibility, and monitor progress toward those targets. This enables them to flexibly comply with general conditions specific to each country and company.
We strive to recycle as much of our waste as possible. In the year under review, our European national companies defined the following common aim: to ensure, by 2024, that no electronic waste they produce, and no returned devices, such as smartphones, routers or laptops, wind up in landfills – and that such waste and devices are properly disposed or recycled as they would be in Germany. In 2021, we refined our Group-wide set of performance indicators for waste management. In addition to monitoring quantities of waste produced, we now also collect data on recycling of technology and hazardous waste.
Waste production (including e-waste) KPI
As part of our waste management, we transparently track our waste production. In the year under review, we added a performance indicator for technology waste to our set of KPIs. As a result, we are now able, for the first time, to differentiate between electronic waste (e-waste), cable waste, and other technology waste. We have not defined Group-wide targets for the reduction of hazardous and non-hazardous waste. Instead, the national companies are guided by our “International Waste Management Framework,” which was adopted in 2013; they use it as a basis for developing or revising their own waste management strategies. They are also setting their own targets, giving top priority to reducing hazardous waste such as lead batteries.
Group-wide waste increased by 10 percent compared to 2020. The increase is due to a change in the calculation methodology at T-Mobile US. The waste volume excluding T-Mobile US decreased by around 28 percent. We provide detailed information on the figures for each individual company in our interactive benchmarking tool.
Waste generation Deutsche Telekom Group
Waste generation without T-Mobile US
Recovered copper cables
Copper cables were the main component of telephone lines for decades. Our fiber-optic roll-out means that this type of cable is now gradually being replaced. In 2016, we therefore introduced a relevant Group-wide, mandatory policy. It provides a guideline to our national companies when it comes to the recycling and disposal of legacy cables and also contains requirements for copper cable recycling.
In 2021, Deutsche Telekom removed around 3 171 metric tons of copper cable from cable ducts in Germany alone. Certified waste disposal facilities process the cables in accordance with environmental standards, and up to 90 percent of the material is then recycled.
Reporting against standards
Paper-free and low-paper work
Running a large company like Deutsche Telekom involves high paper consumption. For several years now, we have gradually been reducing our paper consumption. With our Paperless Office project, we aim to completely as possible eliminate paper use by 2025.
Given the immense paper consumption – around 3 200 metric tons – at our German locations alone, and the large number of processes that require paper, achieve a mostly paperless Deutsche Telekom is a very ambitious goal.
Print on demand has many advantages. For example, quick reference guides can be printed as needed depending on orders and don't need to be preprinted, transported, and stored. Changes to information sheets for our customers can be made on short notice, eliminating large quantities of outdated documents that need to be destroyed. In the year under review, we expanded this project, and print on demand is now available for printing of quick reference guides for all the rate plans we offer in Germany (MagentaZuhause, MagentaTV, business-customer and hybrid plans). In addition, we reviewed whether other materials are also suitable for print on demand – such as those containing a brochure, or a SIM card. The process is not suitable for all of the materials we work with. This applies to the SIM cards for our hybrid plans, for example. Since March 2021, print-on-demand instructions have been marked with our #GreenMagenta label.
In 2021, we implemented various measures in Germany with a view to minimizing our consumption still further – and thus saved around 275 tons of paper:
- Correspondence with our millions of customers is one of the biggest levers for saving paper. Thanks to online billing and increasing use of digital communication, we sent out around six million fewer items in 2021 than in 2020 – a quantity that corresponds to 100 metric tons of paper.
- A portion of each delivery note is now provided in digital form. As a result of this conversion, our paper delivery notes now comprise only one page instead of two – a change that saves seven metric tons of paper per year.
- Due to the pandemic, more employees are now working from home, with the result that fewer documents were printed out in the company's offices. Also, awareness campaigns and digitalization procedures have led to further reductions on printing – amounting to total savings of 46 metric tons of paper in 2021. Flipcharts, notebooks and the like are also increasingly being replaced with digital alternatives.
- A successful pilot project for reducing printing at Deutsche Telekom Headquarters in Bonn is now to be followed by a similar project at another location. As we look to the future, we plan to reduce Deutsche Telekom's printer fleet considerably, at all locations.
- Our EmployeeApp (“Mitarbeiter-App”) is used to handle HR and accounting processes – such as travel expense reports – digitally and paperlessly.
- We have also been able to save large quantities of paper in connection with our shops. The quantity of paper used for our “Mehr Magenta Magazin” (“More Magenta Magazine”) has been decreased by about 32 metric tons in comparison to the previous year. By phasing out paper bags, we saved an additional five metric tons of paper.
- We also reduced the quantities of paper used for the flyers we send out to households throughout Germany – by about 90 metric tons.
- Until we reach our goal of going paperless, we will continue to use certified paper from sustainable sources. Furthermore, over 50 percent of the articles in our range of office products are currently sustainably certified. By 2025, we plan to use certified alternatives for all products for which such alternatives are available.
The next step is to network more closely with our national companies. Our national companies can also already boast a number of successes:
- Slovak Telekom: Through greater reliance on online billing, the company is saving about 10 metric tons of paper per month. In addition, our Slovakian national company uses no paper flyers in its shops, and its customers are able to conclude their agreements completely online.
- Croatia: Since 2021 Hrvatski Telekom's business customers have also been receiving online bills; this has reduced paper use still further.
- Magenta Telekom in Austria: Here as well, customers can receive their monthly bills online, on request. In 2021, this option saved a total of 91 million pages of paper. In addition, for each switch to online billing, Magenta donates three euros to the city of Vienna's afforestation projects.
- T-Systems in Brazil: 90 percent of customers receive their bills online; supplier contracts are also processed paperlessly using digital signatures.
- T-Mobile Polska: For every two pages of paper saved via business customers' switching to online bills, T-Mobile Polska plants one tree.
- T-Mobile US: In the U.S., use of digital alternatives for printed bills and flyers is also increasing. Also, the company has reduced the numbers of printers in its office buildings, in order to conserve resources.
- Greece/OTE: With the “MyNet.Go” app, employees can do such things as submit vacation requests online.
- DT IT Solutions Russia: To promote the transition to a “paperless office”, the company has digitalized HR processes and documents and introduced digital signatures.
- DTSE: The “Let's go paperless” project reduces paper consumption and digitizes as many processes as possible. A digitization community offers tips and suggestions as well as workshops and digital tools to save paper and reduce the number of printers.
- GRI 306-2 (Waste)
Sustainable product packaging KPI
We have set ourselves the goal of reducing packaging materials and are converting our product packaging to sustainable alternatives: As of mid-2022, all new Deutsche-Telekom-branded products introduced to the German and European market are to be sustainably packaged. For this conversion, we have developed appropriate sustainability criteria, and enshrined them in a packaging guideline. Among other things, we want to use recyclable and biodegradable materials, recycled paper wherever possible, and only non-toxic labels and imprints (e.g. made from soy ink). The packaging guideline is part of our “Standard Design Specifications,” which apply throughout the Group (with the exception of T-Mobile US), and which also include sustainability requirements for product components and design. All product manufacturers must meet these criteria when developing Deutsche Telekom devices. In 2021, about 1.4 million new Telekom-branded products sold or leased in Germany were already sustainably packaged in line with our criteria.
For our products we use PaperFoam (among other materials), a biobased and biodegradable alternative to conventional packaging materials. PaperFoam is non-toxic, and recyclable in paper recycling streams, and it reduces the carbon footprint by up to 85 percent compared to other materials. As of 2021, the packaging of the Speedport Smart 4 router sold in Germany is made of this material. In addition, 95 percent of the router's housing consists of recycled plastic.
We also use sustainable product packaging with non-Deutsche-Telekom-branded devices that we source from third-party providers. By the end of 2022, we plan for all third-party smartphones that we sell in Europe to have sustainable packaging. We are currently examining the sustainability of existing packaging as part of our quality audits. If our sustainability standards are not met, we will discuss this with the manufacturers. Some manufacturers do not yet fully meet our requirements, but have introduced promising plans for sustainable packaging. In 2021, about two-thirds of all smartphones sold by Deutsche Telekom in the EU were sold in sustainable packaging.
This year, for the first time, we are reporting Group-wide figures on sustainably packaged devices, differentiating between our own sustainably packaged fixed-line devices and sustainably packaged mobile devices (e.g., mobile routers, smartphones, and tablets). In 2021, the proportion of sustainably packaged mobile devices throughout the Group was 0.01 percent. The proportion of the Group’s own sustainably packaged fixed-network devices was 13 percent.
We also want to make logistics more sustainable. To that end, we plan to optimize parcel packaging, for example. In particular, we plan to discontinue use of plastic in such packaging. A comprehensive analysis has found that in 2021 we saved more than 60 000 square meters of plastic film in Germany. That is equivalent to the area of eight football fields. By producing packaging based on demand, we have already been able to reduce paper consumption by 80 percent. In 2020, we began using a cardboard shredder. This has enabled us to reduce our use of paper as fill material – by 50 metric tons of paper. To make even greater use of optimization potential in this area, we are in discussion with our national companies outside of Germany and are working with them to develop relevant innovative concepts.Reporting against standards
- GRI 301-3 (Materials)
- GRI 306-2 (Waste)
Used mobile device collection
The European national companies (with the exception of Germany) are aiming, by 2024, to collect one million used mobile devices and refurbish or recycle them to return them into circulation. In Germany, we are also doing more than the law requires in our efforts to collect used cell phones. Since 2003, we have collected over 3.3 million used phones.
Under our sustainable smartphone recycling scheme, users can sell used phones to Deutsche Telekom via the “Trade MyMobile” (only available in German) service. Used phones that lend themselves to refurbishment and reuse are refurbished – and the results are certified. Via the “ReUse MyMobile” (only available in German) service, they are resold and returned into the smartphone ecosystem. By being reused, their ecological footprint is considerably improved. With our “Insure MyMobile” service, we also offer cell-phone insurance for new and refurbished smartphones.
Business customers can use the cell phone collection center (only available in German) to return smartphones and tablets. In this way, we also offer a complete cell phone cycle for companies.
In Germany, used mobile devices can be sent to us by mail – without batteries, please! – or deposited in a Deutsche Telekom collection box. Overall in 2021, Deutsche Telekom took back or purchased a total of around 203 000 used cell phones in Germany. We offer an online portal (only available in German) via which anyone can get involved in cell phone collection and order a free collection box. Phones returned via this channel are also checked to see if they can be reused. Phones that are no longer suited for refurbishment are recycled in Germany, by specialized companies, properly and environmentally safely. The metal resources thus recovered are also returned to the cell phone ecosystem and reused.
In the year under review, we conducted a wide-scale cell phone collection campaign (only available in German) in cooperation with the radio station WDR 2. During the campaign period in October 2021, the station boosted its reporting on sustainability, cell phone collection, and urban mining. All in all, we collected around 20 000 devices from WDR listeners. The proceeds from the campaign benefit humanitarian projects in countries in which gold, copper or silver are mined for cell phone production. We transport all collected devices in a controlled and safe manner to the Telekom Recycling Center. Each cell phone is then electronically recorded and registered in a database. Around 10 to 15 percent of them can be reused. All of the previous users' data from these cell phones and smartphones is carefully deleted. Defective cell phones or devices, for which certified data deletion would be too costly, are properly recycled at the Telekom Recycling Center in Germany. Up to 100 percent of the materials are reused – as recycled metals or for energy generation.
We work with collection specialist Teqcycle for our device collection processes. Together, we are committed to secure, state-of-the-art solutions for the collection and transport of used equipment and data deletion. Deutsche Telekom maintains high security standards for data privacy; data privacy throughout the entire collection process has been certified by the testing and certification company DEKRA. In addition, the joint collection system of Deutsche Telekom in Germany and Teqcycle, operating via the cell phone collection center, has been awarded the official Blue Angel eco-label.
We use the proceeds from marketing and recycling to support nature conservation and environmental protection projects (only available in German), as well as social projects organized by the partners of the cell phone collection center.
Reporting against standards
ESG KPI “Take Back Mobile Devices” (including mobile phones) KPI
We report the ESG KPI “Take Back Mobile Devices” based on the reference value “number of devices sold.” This makes it possible to show the ratio of collected devices to the number of devices sold. When devices are used for longer periods of time, the environment benefits from this decision and, as a result, this has a positive impact on the KPI. In 2021, the value of the ESG KPI “Take Back Mobile Devices” is 3.7 for the Group (not including T-Mobile US and DTSE units). This means, for every 100 devices put into circulation each year, we take back around 3.7 via collection campaigns. In 2021, we expanded our data collection and, in addition to the return of mobile devices, also report the return of mobile phones. The KPI for mobile phone take-back was 3.9 percent in 2021. Our ambition in this connection: Increase the KPI
In 2021, over 12 million mobile devices were collected throughout the Group – 11.6 million mobile phones were collected by T-Mobile US alone. The corresponding KPI for T-Mobile US is 33 percent, and the Group-wide value, including T-Mobile US, is 27 percent. The aim of the scheme for collection of used mobile devices is to give the devices a second life and, where that is not feasible, to properly recycle them, in order to recover the valuable raw materials they contain. With these efforts, over 3.3 million used mobile devices have been reused or recycled in Germany since 2003. This has conserved resources, and it has helped to improve the life cycle assessments for mobile devices overall.
The quantities of collected devices are reported in kilograms or in numbers of items. When using kilograms, we apply a Group-wide conversion factor of 7.25 items per kilogram, except where a different conversion factor is typically used in the country concerned. The mobile devices in circulation include smartphones, simple phones, tablets and cordless phones. In the interest of data quality, numbers of items are reported by Procurement.Reporting against standards
- GRI 301-3 (Materials)
- GRI 306-1 (Waste)
- Code TC-TL-440a.1 (Product End-of-life Management)
- Criterion 7 (Support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges)
- Criterion 10 (Work against corruption in all its forms of, including extortion and bribery)
- Criterion 11 (Usage of Natural Resources)
- Criterion 12 (Resource Management)
- E14-01 (Recycling Quota)
ESG KPI “Take Back CPEs” (including fixed-line) KPI
In keeping with our circularity strategy, we also promote refurbishment and proper recycling of Customer Premises Equipment (CPE). The CPE category includes modems, routers, repeaters, and TV receivers. The aim of the scheme for collection of such devices is to give the devices a second life and, where that is not feasible, to properly recycle them, in order to recover the valuable raw materials they contain.
In 2021, we reported the ESG KPI “Take Back CPE” and the numbers of refurbished CPE items involved. In 2021, more than 3 million CPE items were collected, and 18 percent of that quantity were refurbished.
We are aiming to further improve the collection and refurbishment processes, and to achieve 100 percent sustainable management of collected CPE items. This would mean that all CPE items collected by European national companies would either be refurbished, stored for future refurbishment, or recycled. We plan to begin implementing relevant measures in this connection in 2022.