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  • 2018 Corporate Responsibility Report

Collection of used mobile devices in Germany

Our contribution to the SDGs

Germany’s recycling and reuse rate for small electronic appliances is too low. Too many used cell phones, smartphones and tablets are stuck in drawers or disposed of illegally with the household waste. But these devices should be refurbished and reused or properly recycled to help us conserve valuable resources. We have been offering different ways for people to hand in their devices since 2003. Customers have been able to return their used, high-end cell phones and smartphones to Telekom Shops under a buyback program since 2013. They receive store credit from the Telekom Shop reflecting their old device’s current value, which they can use to purchase a new device, or they can choose to have the amount booked to their customer account. Business customers can send in their used cell phones and smartphones through a special buyback portal, which we created in 2016. After the device’s value has been determined, the amount can be paid out or donated to a charitable organization. Together with company Teqcycle Solutions we also operate the Cell Phone Collection Center online portal. Through this portal, authorities, associations and other organizations have the opportunity to start collection campaigns for donating used cell phones and smartphones. The website provides an overview of these partners and the collection campaigns they conduct. Campaigns took place in Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Hesse, Saarland and North Rhine-Westphalia during the reporting period. At the end of the year we donated the proceeds from the devices collected through recycling and reuse to Netzwerk Entwicklungspolitik Saarland e.V. and the Freiburg “Natur und Mensch” (Nature and man) musuem to thus support educational projects.

In 2018 we collected exactly 187,028  used cell phones and smartphones throughout Germany and either reused them or had them properly recycled. During the cell phone collection campaign we use a data erasure process that is DEKRA certified and complies with strict data protection requirements. Defective cell phones or devices where certified data erasure would be too costly are properly recycled using state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly processes at the Telekom Recycling Center. Up to 100 percent of the materials can then be reused – as recycled metals or for energy generation.

We depict the relationship between commercially sold and collected cell phones with our Take Back Mobile Devices ESG img KPI img. Around 368,000 mobile devices were collected throughout the Group (not including T-Mobile US, AMC, Maktel, Crnogorski Telekom) in 2018.

Support of various collection campaigns
As in previous years, we supported the Die-Handy-Aktion cell phone campaign conducted by different church-affiliated groups in the state of Baden-Württemberg in 2018 as well. Together with the Ministry of the Environment of Baden-Württemberg, the campaign partners carried out a large number of measures in the educational sector. For example, they redesigned the “cell phone raw materials kit” with the German Mineral Resources Agency and presented it to school classes and youth groups. The kit contains various minerals that are used in cell phones. Using accompanying teaching materials, teachers can explain the significance of the raw materials in smartphones to their students.

The “Responsibility and Sustainability. Join in!” collection campaign in the state of Saarland, which we have been supporting since 2014, was renamed “Handy-Aktion Saarland” (Saarland cell phone campaign) in 2018. We are still a cooperation partner to the campaign, which focuses on projects such as providing special course material on the topics of cell phone collection and resource efficiency. Mutual cell phone collection campaigns with Saarland companies and institutions are a further focus.

Information and recycling for World Environment Day
As part of World Environment Day we informed our customers in June 2018 about sustainable smartphone use and recycling used phones. On a special website set up for World Environment Day they were able, for example, to find out how the life of a smartphone can be extended and which collection points they can take their phone to at the end of its life cycle for it to be repaired or recycled. The tips were compiled by the Deutsche Telekom “Computerhilfe” service and additionally provided in the form of a readily understandable infographic. The infographic also includes current facts and figures on valuable resources in smartphones and their recycling. In the short video “Telekom Netz Tour 2018: Zerstören für die Nachhaltigkeit” (Telekom network tour 2018: destroying for sustainability) we also explain how we recycle and re-use smartphones.

Cornelia Szyszkowitz

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Cornelia Szyszkowitz