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  • 2018 Corporate Responsibility Report

Waste reduction and recycling

Our contribution to the SDGs

Our waste management is organized according to uniform principles across the Group. The implementation lies in the responsibility of the national companies. On a Group level, we have not set a goal for the reduction of hazardous and non-hazardous waste. Instead, our national companies are developing their own waste strategies or updating their current strategies on the basis of our International Waste Management Framework, which we adopted in 2013. They are also setting their own targets, with the reduction of hazardous waste such as lead batteries having top priority.

Logistics – less packaging waste
We’ve all been there – after ordering a small item, it comes delivered in a disproportionately large box filled with extra material to protect it from damage during transportation. Deutsche Telekom has come up with a solution for precisely this problem with its partner Packsize, which has developed a machine that makes it possible to produce the exact box size required for the outgoing item “just in time” – and without major wastage. To ensure reliability and prevent outages, two machines, which are supplied with fanfold corrugated and can produce a delivery box in around ten seconds, constantly run at the same time. The fanfold corrugated in question is available in various widths and qualities. The machines have been in operation since the end of 2017. Depending on the type of delivery, we use up to 50 percent less cardboard packaging and up to 95 percent less filling material as a result.

Requirements for Group-wide copper cable recycling
Copper cables were a main component of telephone lines for decades. These are being partially replaced over the course of our fiber-optic roll-out. In 2016, we therefore introduced a Group-wide, mandatory policy requiring copper cable recycling. This policy provides a guideline to our national companies when it comes to the recycling and disposal of used cables.

Trialing methods for recovering tantalum from electronic scrap
In light of the switch to IP img technology and the dismantling of analog infrastructures, we will disassemble tons of old electronics over the coming years. We intend to recover precious metals such as gold and tantalum from the scrap. However, there are not yet suitable recycling methods for all metals. The tantalum used to manufacture condensers is extracted from coltan, which is considered a conflict resource. For this reason we have been conducting a project together with the bifa Umweltinstitut environment institute since 2013. The goal is to develop the perfect method for disassembling and recycling tantalum condensers. Different manual and automated methods for disassembling tantalum condensers were tested. Based on the results, we opted for an automated method in 2016, with circuit boards disassembled using thermal treatment. In order to implement the method in regular operations, a sufficiently high amount of electrical waste would be required. So far, the potential amounts have been insufficient to render this method economical. We will review this aspect again in due course.