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Vodafone announces circular economy plan to extend life of mobile phones and increase reuse and recycling

23 Feb 2022Planet news
9 minute read

MWC2022 Barcelona - 23 February 2022

  • Major retail initiative to extend life of mobile phones and ensure more handsets are reused or recycled

  • Vodafone and Recommerce announce strategic partnership for trade-in across Europe.

Vodafone today announced a major initiative to extend the life of new mobile phones and encourage customers to trade in or recycle their old devices, helping the mobile industry move towards a more ‘circular economy’ that minimises waste and further reduces carbon emissions.

Starting in European markets from Spring 2022, Vodafone customers will be offered a comprehensive and convenient suite of services, including insurance, support and repairs for their devices.  Vodafone will launch a new digital platform making it straightforward for customers to agree trade-in options for their existing phones.

Vodafone will also encourage customers to return any mobile devices that are at the end of their ability to function, and, wherever possible, will ensure that they are recycled responsibly or repurposed for social or charitable causes.  In addition, Vodafone will begin to offer a wider range of high-quality, competitively priced refurbished smartphones at retail.

Vodafone and Recommerce today announced a strategic partnership for wholesale trade-in and asset management, enabling Europe’s largest smartphone customer base to benefit from high quality, pre-owned devices at retail.

Alex Froment-Curtil, Vodafone Group Chief Commercial Officer, said: “Vodafone has a leading role to play in developing and driving a circular economy for mobile devices that significantly reduces their impact on the environment.  We are pioneering a comprehensive, digital offering that makes it easier for our customers to extend the life of their current smartphone, or to buy and own a refurbished device.”

Augustin Becquet, CEO Recommerce said: “We are very proud to launch this partnership together with Vodafone who are launching the largest and most advanced device lifecycle management program in Europe. We are convinced of the real impact of such a long-term partnership for the environment and to fight climate change.”

Keeping a phone handset for an extra year can reduce its lifetime CO2e impact by up to 29%.[1] Purchasing a refurbished smartphone saves around 50 Kg CO2e – 20% or less than the equivalent newly manufactured smartphone – and removes the need to extract 164 Kg of raw materials.[2]  More than 50,000 tonnes of CO2e could potentially be avoided for every million smartphones Vodafone receives via trade-in that are subsequently refurbished and resold.[2]

Most Vodafone markets already operate trade-in, device buyback and repair services to encourage customers to repair or return their old devices. Vodafone’s commitment today will ensure that all customers in Europe will be able to benefit from a comprehensive, consistent digital approach, including:

  • Insurance for new phone purchases, giving protection against accidental damage.

  • Flexible trade-in options via a simple-to-use consumer app, enabling customers to swiftly receive payment for their existing handset or credit towards the purchase of a newer phone.

  • Fast repair services that can extend the life of accidentally damaged devices.

  • Retailing at scale a range of high-quality refurbished, pre-owned handsets alongside newer devices.

  • Encouraging customers to hand back their old mobile phones for recycling or for social / charitable causes.

Vodafone launched a “Bring Back Friday” consumer campaign across several markets on Black Friday, 26 November 2021. This encouraged customers to trade in their old phones and receive credit for new devices, whilst ensuring that devices are recycled or repurposed responsibly.

In addition to consumer mobile devices, Vodafone’s programme of refurbishing and reusing fixed-line routers and TV set-top boxes in Germany, Portugal and Spain will be expanded to further markets, reducing the associated environmental and cost impacts.

Joakim Reiter, Chief External and Corporate Affairs Officer, and leading Vodafone’s planet activities, said: “In recent years Vodafone has made significant progress in eliminating our carbon footprint, improving energy efficiency across our operations, revamping our procurement to support sustainability, and driving carbon enablement for our customers. The next frontier of our planet strategy is now focussed on building a more circular economy for consumers and industry, and through own actions and in collaboration with partners developing innovative programmes that can tackle the growing challenge around electronic waste.”

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Minimising network waste

Vodafone has pledged to reuse, resell, or recycle 100% of its network waste by 2025.  To deliver this, Vodafone has implemented resource efficiency and waste disposal management programmes across every market to minimise the environmental impact of network waste and redundant IT equipment.

Vodafone operates an internal asset marketplace that encourages its markets to re-sell and re-purpose excess stock or large decommissioned electrical items like masts and antennae, with results showing an 89% lower carbon impact for reused equipment compared with purchasing new equipment.[3]  Vodafone is currently assessing the possibility of expanding the solution to partner markets and other operators.

Partnering to reduce waste

In 2021, Vodafone joined the Circular Electronics Partnership, which brings together leaders across the value chain to drive circularity solutions for electronics.

In May 2021, Vodafone also joined forces with four of Europe’s leading network operators to launch a new pan-industry Eco Rating labelling scheme to help consumers identify and compare the most sustainable mobile phones and encourage suppliers to reduce the environmental impact of their devices.

Reducing carbon emissions and driving energy efficiency

In November 2020, Vodafone set an approved 2030 Science-Based Target in line with carbon reductions required to keep global warming to 1.5oc, becoming the first major telecoms operator to follow the emission reduction pathway developed for the ICT sector.[4]

By 2030, Vodafone will eliminate its carbon footprint from its own activities and from energy it purchases and uses (Scope 1 and 2).  Vodafone also pledged that by 2030 it will halve carbon emissions from Scope 3 sources, including joint ventures, all supply chain purchases, the use of products it has sold and business travel.[5]

By 2040, Vodafone will have eliminated its Scope 3 carbon footprint completely - bringing forward by ten years Vodafone’s original 2050 ambition to reach ‘net zero’ across its full carbon footprint.[6]

Vodafone is committed to purchasing all electricity from renewable sources.  Vodafone’s entire European operations – including mobile and fixed networks, data centres, retail, and offices – are already 100% powered by electricity from renewables.  Vodafone is now working to achieving the same step-change in Africa by 2025.[7]

Vodafone continues to invest in energy efficiency and on-site renewable projects, included sourcing and deploying more efficient network equipment and decommissioning legacy equipment in its core network.[8]

Enabling Vodafone customers to reduce their own emissions

Vodafone is committed to helping its business customers reduce their own carbon emissions by a cumulative total of 350 million tonnes globally over ten years between 2020 and 2030 – equivalent to Italy’s total annual carbon emissions for 2019.[9]

Vodafone’s Internet of Things services will deliver most of this saving for customers, helping them improve the efficiency of logistics and fleet management efficiency, smart metering, manufacturing, and other activities.

Working with suppliers

Vodafone applies a 20% weighting for environmental and social criteria when suppliers tender for new work, examining whether they have environmental policies to address carbon reduction, renewable energy, plastic reduction, circular economy, and product life cycle.[10]


Notes for Editors

[1] 2019 European Economic and Social Committee study Identifying the impact of the circular economy on the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods IndustryTitre: Study - Identifying the impact of the circular economy on the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods Industry - Opportunities and challenges for business, workers and consumers – mobile phones as an example (europa.eu)

[2] This takes a conservative view of the difference between the carbon emissions for a typical new smartphone (circa 50kg CO2e or greater for production alone), versus the carbon footprint for refurbishing, transport, use and recycling a typical refurbished smartphone (10kg CO2e or less).  Sources are:

  • Published manufacturer information on greenhouse gas emissions calculated using a life cycle assessment methodology.  Examples include:

    • Apple iPhone 12 64GB, entire life cycle stated as 68kg CO2e, of which 83% (56kg) relates to production.

    • Apple iPhone 13 128GB, entire life cycle stated as 64kg CO2e, of which 81% (51kg) relates to production.

    • Google Pixel 6, estimated GHG emissions assuming three years of use stated as 95kg CO2e, of which 81% (76kg) relates to production.

[3] Research carried out by Zevero for Shields found there was on average an 89% CO2e/kg saving for every product re-used in internal marketplaces:  https://www.shields-e.com/news/2021/shields-marketplace-oem-vs-re-used-case-study-copy/

[4] Vodafone commits to net zero carbon emissions by 2040: https://www.vodafone.com/news/press-release/vodafone-commits-to-net-zero-carbon-emissions-by-2040

[5,6,7,8,9]  Vodafone Group Plc Annual Report 2021, p38-40: https://investors.vodafone.com/sites/vodafone-ir/files/2021-05/vodafone-annual-report-2021.pdf

[10] Vodafone embeds purpose commitments in its supply chainhttps://www.vodafone.com/news/press-release/vodafone-embeds-purpose-commitments-in-its-supply-chain


For further information

Vodafone Group, Media Relations 
[email protected]

Investor Relations 
Email: [email protected]


About Vodafone

Unique in its scale as the largest pan-European and African technology communications company, Vodafone transforms the way we live and work through its innovation, technology, connectivity, platforms, products and services. Vodafone operates mobile and fixed networks in 21 countries, and partners with mobile networks in 52 more.  As of 31 December 2021, we had over 300m mobile customers, more than 28m fixed broadband customers and over 22m TV customers.

Vodafone is a world leader in the Internet of Things (IoT), connecting more than 142m devices and platforms through innovation that aligns with the aspirations of society for cleaner and safer cities, better transport and improved agriculture. Vodafone’s digital leadership is also changing how governments deliver healthcare and education, and how businesses, particularly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), serve customers.

We have revolutionised fintech in Africa through M-Pesa, which celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2022. It is the region’s largest fintech platform, providing access to financial services for more than 51m people in a secure, affordable and convenient way.

Our purpose is to connect for a better future, enabling an inclusive and sustainable digital society. We are taking significant steps to reduce our impact on our planet by becoming net zero by 2040, purchasing 100% of our electricity from renewable sources in Europe and across our entire operations by 2025, and reusing, reselling or recycling 100% of our redundant network equipment. Vodafone proactively works to expand access to connectivity for rural communities, students and jobseekers. For more than 30 years, Vodafone’s Foundation has supported communities in Europe and Africa in the areas of health, education, and equality.

We support diversity and inclusion through our maternity and parental leave policies, empowering women through connectivity and improving access to education and digital skills for women, girls, and society at large. We are respectful of all individuals, irrespective of race, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, belief, culture or religion.

For more information, please visit www.vodafone.com, follow us on Twitter at @VodafoneGroup or connect with us on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/company/vodafone.

About Recommerce

RECOMMERCE GROUP is the European pioneer of trade-in, refurbishment and resale of high-tech electronic equipment. By offering its solutions and applications to telecom operators, retailers and corporations across Europe, Recommerce enables its partners to implement Circular Economy and, since being founded in 2009, the company has given a second life to more than 3,5 million devices. The premium refurbished devices are resold in Europe to operators, retailers and online via www.recommerce.com.

Since 2020 Recommerce is part of the French Next 40 / FrenchTech 120 and has been awarded the RecQ – quality refurbishment by DEKRA – Certification as well as the Platinum rating by Ecovadis for its CSR policies. The company is certified ISO9001, ISO 14001 and is in the process of obtaining ISO 27001 certification. In 2021 Recommerce generated revenues in excess of EUR 100 million and currently has offices in 7 European countries, employing more than 130 people.

Recommerce® brand and logo are registered at the EUIPO and in Switzerland and belong to Recommerce Solutions in these areas. Any reproduction, in whole or in part of these trademarks or logos made without express authorization is prohibited under the European Union's trademark regulation 2017/1001 and the Swiss Federal law.

  • Net Zero
  • MWC
  • Planet
  • Press Release
  • Environment
  • Circular economy 
  • Reducing emissions
  • SDG 13
  • SDGs

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