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Mobile device collection

In Germany, we voluntarily go beyond the legal requirements to collect used cell phones. Devices that can be refurbished and reused can then be resold. The remaining devices are professionally recycled. Deutsche Telekom took back a total of around 250,680 used cell phones and smartphones in Germany in 2020.

Old mobile devices can be sent to us by mail 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 the reporting year, we conducted a wide-scale cell phone collection campaign with the SWR3 radio station. During the campaign period in October 2020, the station boosted its reporting on sustainability, cell phone collection, and urban mining. We collected around 20,000 devices from SWR listeners. Deutsche Telekom donated the 10,000 euros in proceeds to an insect conservation project from the Lake Constance Foundation.

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 erased. 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; the entire collection process has been certified by the DEKRA testing company for data privacy. The joint collection system of Deutsche Telekom and Teqcycle via the cell phone collection center has also been awarded the official Blue Angel eco-label.

As a central element in our environmental program, we developed a sustainable device recycling program, where users can sell their old, but still functional smartphone or tablet to Deutsche Telekom and have the price credited toward a new device. The old device is refurbished and resold. This is one way we can reduce the ecological footprint of newly bought smartphones.

We use the proceeds from marketing and recycling to support projects in nature conservation and environmental protection, as well as social projects organized by the partners of the cell phone collection center.

Cornelia Szyszkowitz

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Cornelia Szyszkowitz

Reporting against standards


Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)

  • GRI 301-3 (Materials)

“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 390,000 mobile devices were collected throughout the Group (not including T-Mobile US, AMC, Maktel, Crnogorski Telekom, DTSE units) in 2020, an increase of 4 percent compared to the previous year.

The “Take-back of mobile devices” ESG KPI for the Group in 2020 is 45.9, which means that 4.6 percent of the end devices put into circulation were taken back through collection campaigns. Out of 1,000 devices put into circulation annually, we take back 46.

Our ambition: increase KPI

In 2020, about 5.9 million mobile devices were collected at TMUS alone. The KPI would be 86 for T-Mobile US and 82 group-wide incl. T-Mobile US.

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


Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)

  • GRI 301-3 (Materials)

German Sustainability Code

  • Criterion 7 (Control)
  • Criterion 10 (Innovation and Product Management)
  • Criterion 11 (Usage of Natural Resources)
  • Criterion 12 (Resource Management)

Global Compact

  • Principle 7 (Support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges)
  • Principle 8 (Undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility)

European Federation of Financial Analysts Societies (EFFAS)

  • E14-01 (Recycling ratio)

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 3 percent compared to 2019. 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. Our fiber-optic roll-out means that this type of cable is now gradually being replaced. In 2016, we therefore introduced a 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 2020, Deutsche Telekom removed around 3,773 metric tons of copper cable from ducts in Germany alone. Certified waste disposal facilities process the cables in accordance with environmental standards at certified waste disposal facilities, and up to 90 percent of the material is then recycled.

Reporting against standards


Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB)

  • Code TC-TL-440a.1 (Product End-of-life Management)