Envirotec

Reducing e-waste and connecting the disconnected: Campaign marks milestone

A landmark 10,000 smartphones have been “rehomed with people who need them”, according to Community Calling, a joint initiative of Virgin Media O2 and environmental charity Hubbub.

The programme was launched in May 2020 with the professed aim of helping vulnerable people get online to access essential services, such as healthcare appointments, to apply for jobs and keep in touch with their loved ones, as well as provide a sustainable way for people and businesses to recycle old devices, preventing them from ending up in landfill as e-waste.

Since then, Community Calling has “gone from strength to strength, rehoming thousands of second-hand smartphones with digitally isolated people across the country, along with free texts, calls and mobile data from the National Databank – set up by Virgin Media O2 and digital inclusion charity, Good Things Foundation”.

And by diverting material from landfill, the initiative has helped save more than 535 tonnes of CO2e.

It is estimated an average of four phones are sitting unused for every one phone in use in the UK. While recycling is important, many of these phones sitting in our homes or those that have been discarded are highly functional and could be reused, thereby extending their life and benefiting people who need a device. Community Calling is seeking to address this challenge by boosting smartphone reuse and tackling digital exclusion.

Emily Watson from Hubbub, said: “Community Calling is changing people’s lives across the country. We’ve supported young people and older people, survivors of domestic abuse, asylum seekers and those facing homelessness.

“Beyond this amazing social impact, by redistributing 10,000 second-hand phones we’ve saved more than 535 tonnes of CO2e, which is the same as one person taking more than 850 return flights from London to New York.

“Thank you to everyone who has sent in a device to us; you’re helping someone to enjoy all the benefits of internet connectivity, and you’re showing that a model of circularity and extending the lifespan of smart devices is possible.

“We’re encouraging people and businesses to continue to gift smartphones so we can help more digitally isolated people across the country.”

The 10,000th smartphone has seemingly been rehomed with Rohi, aged 18, who lives in Lewisham, south-east London. Rohi has used the device to get online to access essential services, online meetings, and for job applications.

Rohi said: “I use my phone to talk to my friends, access benefits, and apply for jobs. Being in supported accommodation, young people have limited amount of money to use for items such as smartphones or tablets especially with the running costs. The phone has been very useful for accessing Zoom meetings, housing benefit portals and the Universal Credit site.”

It’s easy to help someone like Rohi if you have an unused smartphone. To donate, sign up online – you’ll receive a free-post donation kit to post your old and workable smartphone, to be refurbished by trusted partner Reconome. It will be data-wiped, sanitised and redistributed with user guides and PAYG SIM cards. Virgin Media O2 and Hubbub are also encouraging businesses to support the campaign by offering bulk device donations, or providing collection boxes in their offices (where appropriate).

If you’d like to support the campaign and donate your old smartphones to Community Calling, visit http://www.hubbub.org.uk/communitycalling for more details.

Virgin Media O2 and Hubbub have also established the Tech Lending Fund which will make tablets and free mobile data available to community organisations supporting people in temporary accommodation.

Hubbub says it is planning to extend campaigns to tackle e-waste helping local communities and collecting evidence that will help to inform the development of DEFRA’s Extended Producer Responsibility policies seeking to reduce e-waste. If you would like to get involved in future campaigns please contact hello@hubbub.org.uk

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