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IT entrepreneur Günther Bonin on his maritime waste collection

New ways to combat plastic waste in the oceans

Researchers forecast that there will be more pieces of plastic in our oceans than fish by the year 2050. Over time, the plastic disintegrates into tiny micro particles that end up in our bodies through food. Munich-based IT entrepreneur and enthusiastic sailor Günther Bonin gave up his old life and founded the organization One Earth – One Ocean. His goal: Maritime waste collection that picks up plastic from the ocean. His vision: To turn plastic into fuel for ships in the medium term.

We mustn’t forget that plastic is just one element of a much bigger problem

Birgit Klesper in an interview on resource conservation and circular economy

Ms. Klesper, plastic is poisoning the oceans – is it time for a rethink?

Absolutely. We have to take a long, hard look at our plastic consumption. There are many situations where we could get rid of the plastic and replace it with more environmentally friendly materials – in packaging, for example. However, there are also some scenarios, such as in medicine, where there is no substitute for plastics – not yet, at least. In cases where we can’t do without plastic, we have to make sure the waste doesn’t end up in the environment, but is instead disposed of properly and recycled. All the same, we mustn’t forget that plastic is just one element of a much bigger problem. We need to raise awareness about resource conservation not only in relation to plastic, but also in many other areas.

Can you explain that in more detail?

We are living beyond our means! By August, we will have reached the limit of our planet’s capacity to naturally replenish the resources we are consuming in the same year. It’s obvious that this can’t go on forever. We’re all familiar with the problems – overfishing the oceans, deforestation, growing mountains of garbage, increasing amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere, and the natural disasters these cause. We need to come up with a solution fast. If we want to maintain our lifestyle, we need to move away from a disposable society to a circular economy.

What exactly is meant by a “circular economy”?

In a circular economy, the resources used are fully returned to the production process after the product’s life cycle has ended. Key to this are the elements of reuse, recycle, and repair, along with extended service lives and product sharing. Why does everyone need their own drill, when it will spend most of the time in the basement, not being used? To start with, however, production itself must of course be sustainable.

You want to see responsible management of resources – what are the best ways of achieving this?

Digitalization is an excellent way to conserve resources. If we store our holiday photos in the Magenta Cloud, for example, we don’t need a hard drive of our own. And where there’s no hard drive, no raw materials are being used, electricity consumption is reduced, and no waste is produced. The key word here is dematerialization.

But data needs to be stored somewhere, even in the cloud.

That’s right, but we can do it much more effectively than our customers. Thanks to effective capacity utilization, our highly secure, energy-efficient data centers require less hardware, which means less energy consumption. In addition, we are on the way to reducing our emissions to zero – that means eliminating our carbon footprint. This also includes emissions arising from the manufacture and use of our products. Our customers are already surfing on Deutsche Telekom’s green network.

What else is Deutsche Telekom doing in terms of conserving resources?

The Deutsche Telekom Board of Management approved the holistic “We care for our planet” environmental project – because it will take many steps, big and small. The measures in the program range from the Green Shop concept and sustainable mobility to resource-friendly products. We are creating transparency in relation to the latter through our #GoodMagenta and #GreenMagenta labels, which enable our customers to recognize which of our products offer sustainable added value. We are also getting our staff involved and supporting grassroots initiatives throughout the Group. In Germany alone, there are now more than 260 employees who are active as “Green Pioneers” – our sustainability ambassadors.

We have made environmental protection part of the program

Whether in our company or with our suppliers and customers, we aim to boost the responsible handling of resources at all levels of our value chain. To this end, we are reducing resource consumption in our company, cutting waste, and ensuring proper disposal and recycling. We work closely with our suppliers to make our products more environmentally friendly. We are cutting down on packaging. Our sustainable products and solutions help our customers reduce their own environmental footprint. We make sustainability benefits transparent using our #GoodMagenta and #GreenMagenta labels. We take used devices back and ensure they are reused or properly recycled. Our networks enable sharing platforms. In addition to this, we are promoting resource conservation, most notably by virtualizing our products.

SDG 12 – conserving resources

Our holistic environmental project is our contribution to the 12th United Nations Sustainable Development Goal.

Our “We care for our planet” environmental project

Whether in our products and networks, in our buildings and shops, or in relation to mobility, our “We care for our planet” environmental project further expands our commitment to climate and environmental protection and implements targeted resource conservation measures. Building optimization and energy-saving measures, for example, enabled

us to save around 137 GW/h of electricity in 2020 – equivalent to the annual consumption of more than 34,000 single-family households. All new Deutsche Telekom products have had sustainable packaging since the end of 2020. Over 25 percent of the packaging of new products we source from our suppliers already meets these criteria. Another example is operating rapid charging stations for electric vehicles through our subsidiary Comfort Charge. This has achieved a reduction in CO2 emissions of 263 metric tons. That is the equivalent of the CO2 emissions produced by a passenger car on a journey of 815,000 kilometers. Within the Group, we are using more efficient vehicles and are increasingly opting for alternative drive systems such as electric and natural gas. This approach has enabled us to cut our fleet’s CO2 emissions by over 40 percent since 2008. You can read more about sustainable mobility here.

Energy-saving measures in our buildings

Building optimization and energy-saving measures, for example, enabled us to save around 137 GW/h of electricity in 2020 – equivalent to the annual consumption of more than 34,000 single-family households.

Less is more

One example of resource conservation in our products is the new Speedport Smart 4 Plus router. Some 90 percent of its housing is made of recycled plastic. To protect it during transport, we use PaperFoam – a material made of industrial starch, cellulose fibers, and water that can be disposed of with paper waste or composted.

A cloud that conserves resources

With cloud computing, our customers no longer need to be bothered with their own servers and storage media. Cloud computing is more resource and energy-efficient than running your own infrastructure outside of the cloud. Our data centers require up to 80 percent less energy thanks to more effective capacity utilization and less hardware.


We save up to 70 metric tons of paper thanks to custom-fit boxes for our products.

Technology in a made-to-measure suit

We are implementing made-to-measure packaging with our packaging machines in Steinfurt. Rather than fixed-size standard boxes, fanfold corrugated is used to produce boxes to specific dimensions in around ten seconds. Cutting-edge technology calculates the perfect size in the blink of an eye and thus saves tons of paper. However, it doesn’t matter how well a box fits, there will always be empty space that needs to be filled to protect the contents. The waste cardboard generated when the boxes are cut to size is therefore shredded and used as filling material. This not only saves space in the paper waste bins, but also conserves paper resources – around 50 to 70 metric tons a year. Every metric ton of paper not used also saves as much as 50,000 liters of water, 10,000 kWh of energy, and one metric ton of CO2.

“Green Shop”

Since 2018, we have added ecological floor coverings and plant walls at all new or renovated larger shops in Germany. Recyclable LED lights have been installed in around 70 percent of our shops. The “Green Shop” concept is also being implemented at many of our national companies’ stores: We have installed ecological flooring in around 100 stores; 34 international locations have plant walls. We are also eliminating single-use plastic and reducing our paper consumption. Digital invoices and online payment methods are offered across the board at all national companies.

We continuously evolve our shop concept by renewing, innovating and creating new shop experiences for our customers. Sustainability is an important part of our journey. We already use ecological flooring, recyclable LED lights and green walls in several shops across Europe.

Paperless office

By 2025, we intend to completely eliminate paper from our offices. This is an ambitious goal in view of the roughly 4,000 metric tons of paper we consume at our German sites alone. One of the biggest contributions to achieving this is online billing. In 2020, we already sent out around 28 million fewer items of mail than in 2019. In our shops, we replaced paper bags with bags made from recycled PET bottles. Our internal HR processes are also being gradually digitalized – salary statements, sick notes, etc. can be retrieved and submitted digitally. This saved around 25 metric tons of paper in 2020. Moreover, work materials such as notebooks are increasingly being replaced with digital alternatives wherever possible. Until we reach our target, we will obtain our paper from sustainable sources and use certified paper. The national companies have also been able to register some success. DTSE Slovakia printed 3.35 million fewer pages in 2020, Croatia and Romania have cut their paper consumption by introducing digital contract signing, and the “MyNet.Go” app enables staff at OTE in Greece to submit paperless vacation requests, among other things.


More than 260 voluntary “Green Pioneers” are committed to further improving resource conservation and are driving the transformation to an even more sustainable company from within.

Green Pioneers – our sustainability ambassadors

In January 2019, we launched the “Green Pioneers” movement. Since then, around 260 members of staff from 45 sites have joined the movement in Germany. They raise awareness of resource efficiency in the workplace among the workforce and also provide inspiration for our core business. On their own initiative, they develop green ideas for more sustainability at Deutsche Telekom – on a voluntary basis and in addition to their actual work. In 2020, some Green Pioneers held courses on environmental issues for their colleagues, with more than 700 employees in total taking part. Other Green Pioneers organized activities on sustainable mobility in the reporting year, such as “Cycling to work” and “Cycling at lunchtime.” These two cycling campaigns alone helped save more than 50,000 kg of CO2 by the end of September 2020. Similar grassroots initiatives by our employees have been launched at the national companies, such as T-Mobile Polska in Poland and OTE/Cosmote in Greece. Projects to conserve resources, e.g., campaigns to collect and recycle cell phones and to avoid plastic waste, have also been implemented at our national companies.

Dedicated to a longer life for devices

Millions of used cell phones lie abandoned in household drawers, no longer being used – a considerable treasure trove of raw materials. Up to 80 percent of the materials contained in cell phones, like gold and silver, can be recycled. We voluntarily go beyond legal requirements when it comes to reusing or properly recycling used cell phones and other used devices. The OTE Group is one of the first companies in Greece to recondition modems and TV decoders. Returned devices are given a check, repaired, and returned to use. If repair is not possible, the equipment goes to licensed disposal companies. In 2020, the Group collected more than 340,466 devices and more than 284,500 of them could be reconditioned for use.

In the USA, mobile customers can hand in their electronic devices to T-Mobile US – whether a cell phone, battery, accessory, tablet, or laptop, and regardless of brand and model. These devices are also reconditioned to be returned to use or, if that’s not possible, they are recycled. Since 2008, more than 35 million devices have been resold. In 2020 alone, T-Mobile US collected almost 7 million used cell phones.


T-Mobile US has been able to resell 35 million electronic devices since 2008.

We offer a great many products, services, and activities to help our customers cut their CO2 emissions. In addition, we are on the way to reducing all the CO2 emissions generated in our value chain to zero.