Communications provider Three UK is attempting tackle the ever-growing e-waste problem while connecting disadvantaged citizens to the digital world with a new recycling initiative aimed at redistributing unused mobile phones across the UK.
Three’s Reconnected scheme encourages the public to donate their old or unused mobile phones to people at risk, including the homeless, individuals who have left the military and victims of domestic abuse.
The company has partnered with recycling firm GSUK to review the quality and condition of the phones being delivered, and any handsets that fail to meet testing standards will be recycled. Three has also teamed up with the charity Good Things Foundation, an organization that helps people develop digital skills.
“Reconnected is a simple but very effective way to help those in need to get online. Initially, we rolled the scheme out internally and the feedback from our employees has been fantastic,” said Vicki Blenkarn, Three’s director of engagement.
“We are therefore so excited to launch Reconnected with the public to get even more people involved. Whether it’s keeping touch with family or checking updates on job websites such as LinkedIn, phones have become part of our lives. Handing over an unused phone is a small gesture that can make a huge difference.”
Individuals that receive the re-distributed handsets will receive 90 days of free access to the Three network, after which they can keep the handsets and choose a contract that best suits them.
Mobile phones account for a significant portion of increasing e-waste levels and organizations such as Greenpeace have already called on mobile phone manufacturers to adopt business models with greater recyclability options, suggesting that consumers are growing frustrated by too-frequent new releases. Additionally, researchers from the University of Sheffield have found that recycling electronic waste was already worth €2.15 billion in 2014 and could rise to €3.6 billion by 2020.
With its Reconnected initiative, Three is hoping people will be incentivized to donate, ensuring that phones are diverted from landfill and recycled correctly.
O2 and Apple are two other companies that have already rolled out similar campaigns. Since its launch in 2009, O2’s own mobile reuse and recycling program has already saved the company more than £135 million and recycled around two million devices. Apple is attempting to promote reuse and recyclability with an innovative recycling robot named Liam, used to regain valuable materials from discarded phones.