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  • 2019 Corporate Responsibility Report

Waste management & recycling

Mobile device collection

Deutsche Telekom is voluntarily committed to collecting used cell phones beyond the legal requirements. This allows for functional devices to continue being used and the remaining devices to be professionally recycled. We transport all collected devices in a controlled and safe manner to the Telekom Recycling Center. Each device is then electronically recorded and registered in a database. Around 10 to 15 percent of them are suitable for reuse. A DEKRA-certified process is used to carefully erase all of the previous users’ data from these cell phones and smartphones. Defective cell phones or devices, for which certified data erasure would be too costly, are properly recycled using state-of-the-art, environmentally-friendly processes at the Telekom Recycling Center in Western Europe. Up to 100 percent of the materials are reused – as recycled metals or for energy generation.

Deutsche Telekom complies with high security standards as regards data protection during the entire process for returning old cell phones. During the collection, transport and thorough erasure of data from the used devices by a certified specialist company in Germany, we rely on secure solutions which correspond to state-of-the-art technology. The entire collection process by our partner Teqcycle was certified by DEKRA in terms of data protection compliance.

Old mobile devices can be returned by post or deposited in a Deutsche Telekom collection box. Everyone can get involved in cell phone collection via the online portal and order a free collection box.

In order to reduce the ecological footprint when buying new smartphones, we have developed the sustainable smartphone lifecycle - a central element of our environmental program.

The proceeds from marketing and recycling are used to support projects in nature conservation and environmental protection as well as social projects organized by the partners of the cell phone collection center. And, as a bonus, the joint cell phone collection system set up by Deutsche Telekom and Teqcycle was awarded the Blue Angel eco-label.

Cornelia Szyszkowitz

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"Take Back Mobile Devices" ESG KPI a) KPI

We are reporting the Take Back Mobile Devices ESG img KPI  based on the reference value "number of devices in circulation." This makes it possible to more precisely illustrate the ratio of the number of cell phones brought to market to the number of used devices collected. When customers use the devices for longer periods of time, the environment benefits from this decision and, as a result, this has a positive impact on the KPI img.
More than 374 thousand mobile devices were collected throughout the Group (not including TMUS, AMC, Maktel, Crnogorski, DTSE units) in 2019, an increase of 1 percent compared to the previous year.

The "Take-back of mobile devices" ESG KPI for the Group in 2019 is 35.5, which means that 3.6 % of the end devices put into circulation were taken back through collection campaigns. Out of 1000 devices put into circulation annually, we take back 36.

Our ambition: increase KPI

In 2019, about 4.1 million mobile devices were collected at TMUS alone. The KPI would be 93 for TMUS and 82 group-wide incl. TMUS.

The aim of the scheme to take back old cell phones is to give them a second life and, if that isn't possible, to properly recycle them to recover the valuable raw materials inside them. Thanks to this, over 3 million used cell phones have been reused or recycled in Germany since 2003, thus conserving resources. In this way, we have helped to improve the eco-balance of mobile devices.

The Take Back Mobile Devices ESG KPI measures the ratio of collected devices (in thousands) to the number of devices in circulation (in millions). The collected devices are recorded in kilograms or in units. When using kilograms, we apply a Group-wide conversion factor of 7.25 units per kilogram unless another conversion factor is typically used in that country. Mobile devices in circulation include smartphones, simple phones, tablets and cordless phones. Units are reported by Procurement for reasons of data quality.

Reporting against standards

By reporting the Take Back Mobile Devices ESG img KPI  as an indicator of progress achieved in the resource-efficient and environmentally friendly use of products, we partially cover the E14-01 (Recycling ratio) EFFAS indicator. This data is also relevant for criteria 7 (Rules and processes), 10 (Innovation and product management), 11 and 12 (Usage of natural resources) of the German Sustainability Code. It is also used for reporting on the Global Compact principles 7 (Precautionary approach) and 8 (Promoting environmental responsibility).

Waste management and volume KPI

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, giving top priority to reducing hazardous waste such as lead batteries.

Group-wide waste increased slightly by 15 percent compared to 2019. This increase is mainly due to the increase in technical waste. The quantities of technical waste fluctuate from year to year depending on projects that are implemented irregularly. For detailed comments on the figures for each individual company, please refer to the interactive benchmarking tool.

Recovered copper cables KPI

Copper cables were the 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.

In 2019, Deutsche Telekom removed around 7,900 metric tons of copper cable from duct systems in Germany alone. Due to intensified measures, significantly more cables could be identified for recovery in 2019. The cable is processed in accordance with environmental standards at certified waste disposal facilities, and up to 90 percent of the material is recycled.