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Proximus challenges Belgium to collect 100,000 old mobile phones in 2020

Don’t Miss the Call!

More than 3 million old mobile phones are gathering dust in Belgian cupboards. Meanwhile, they contain valuable and increasingly scarce raw materials that could actually be reused. As part of its commitment to create a more sustainable future for our planet, Proximus – together with partner Umicore – is launching "Don’t Miss the Call", an urban mining campaign aiming to collect at least 100,000 old mobile phones in one year. The collected mobile phones will either be prepared for reuse or recycled for the raw materials they contain. Through this action, Proximus and Umicore call for a sustainable alternative to the mining of natural resources. In addition, the “Don’t miss the call” campaign will raise funds for EIGHT, a Belgian organization working to reduce poverty in African villages.

On www.dontmissthecall.be visitors get a call from the planet – both literally and figuratively speaking. During a virtual phone call, the planet explains the importance of urban mining, the practice of extracting raw materials from electronic waste. This way of working allows to recycle valuable raw materials such as gold, silver and copper, hereby offering a more sustainable alternative to artisanal mining, where natural resources continue to be extracted from the earth. Visitors to the platform can also find all the necessary information on how to easily wipe their mobile device before handing it in, in order to make sure their personal data and confidential information are removed.

The ultimate goal of “Don’t Miss the Call” is to engage as many Belgians as possible to gather their old mobile phones and take them to one of the Proximus Shops or to the collection points that will be set up in schools and companies, aiming to collect a total of 100,000 old phones by the end of 2020.

People who hand in their old mobile phones to a Proximus Shop will receive a voucher with a minimum value of €5, and this sum may amount to about €350 based on residual value if their device can be re-used. Consumers may also choose to donate the entire amount of the voucher to EIGHT.

Alleviating the impact of our mobile phone on the planet

For many of us, the mobile phone is the most important device in our everyday lives. It offers great possibilities to improve our daily routines – both professionally and personally. The flipside is that our mobile phones put pressure on our planet’s resources. “At Proximus, we acknowledge that the mobile phone is pivotal in our business model”, says Guillaume Boutin, Proximus CEO. As an operator, Proximus wants to make a difference by raising awareness and creating a societal impact. “Today, less than 5% of all old mobile phones in Belgium are recycled. We can do much better. As one of the leading Belgian companies, we consider it our responsibility to make a positive contribution for our planet. It’s our ambition to become a net positive and truly circular company by 2030. We have a clear commitment to actively contribute to a circular economy and help build a more sustainable society. The campaign is our first big initiative to prove that we are translating this ambition into action. In the same spirit, I am excited to announce that Fairphone will become part of our device portfolio as from March. Fairphone sets new standards for the entire industry, committing to responsible material sourcing and advocating for workers’ welfare. As such they create a longer lasting phone, made with materials that are better for the planet, easily repairable and producing less waste”, according to Guillaume Boutin, CEO of Proximus.

But this can only be done if everyone gets on the bandwagon. Several structural partners of Proximus such as the Royal Belgian Football Association, the Red Flames, the Belgian Paralympic Committee and certain summer festivals have already expressed their support, but Proximus is also calling upon companies and schools to get involved.

We are striving for an initiative in which every Belgian eventually gets involved. "Don’t Miss the Call" is not just for Proximus, but for everybody. That's why I also invite other companies to join in and collect old mobile phones. It's only by working together that we will make a meaningful difference for the planet.

Interested companies can register via www.dontmissthecall.be. Proximus will take care of the collection and provide a set of communication materials. Schools will get the opportunity to join as of February through GoodPlanet, also a partner in this campaign.

Proximus and Umicore joining forces for the planet

The "Don’t Miss the Call" campaign results from a partnership between Proximus and Umicore. For its part, Proximus commits to raising awareness among as many Belgians as possible and ensuring the collection of the mobile phones. Umicore, as world leader in recycling essential metals, will put its recycling technology at the service of the project, treating the mobile phones that are no longer suitable for re-use on the second-hand market. After recycling, scarce raw materials can be re-used in the production process of laptops and mobile phones.

Umicore also stresses the need for a radical shift towards a circular economy. The company’s business model is based on the principle that all new raw materials will be recovered and recycled so that they can be reused.

In an increasingly digital world, e-waste is becoming the strongest growing waste stream globally. Urban mining is not only more efficient than classic mining, but it also enables us to recover metal-based materials rather than depleting the earth’s resources.

Within Proximus, the "Don’t Miss the Call" campaign fits into a long-term strategy. For years, Proximus has been collecting mobile phones with about 20,000 old mobiles phones being collected annually in its Proximus shops, as well as in schools through its partner GoodPlanet. With the "Don’t Miss the Call" campaign, Proximus wants to sustain the momentum by showing that individual contributions can be brought together in a bigger impactful movement that can ultimately make urban mining become the new standard.

Support for EIGHT

But the mining of raw materials such as cobalt, coltan, silver and gold doesn’t only have a negative impact on the environment. Local populations are affected too, as artisanal mining can be linked to various humanitarian issues.

With the “Don’t Miss the Call” campaign, Proximus wants to close the circle by doing something meaningful for the people in these mining regions. Therefore, the company will work with EIGHT, a Belgian organization committed to eradicating poverty by sponsoring African villages. EIGHT dares to break conventions by allowing people living in poverty to decide autonomously on how to spend the funds they receive, hereby immediately empowering them to make their own choices. Proximus feels strongly connected to EIGHT’s efforts, for which they won the “digital for development” prize in 2018. By working with EIGHT, Proximus aims to set up a support program for an entire village in the mining region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Through our project with unconditional cash transfers into a village in the Democratic Republic of Congo, we want to find out whether the people in the villages near a mine get more choices. For example, whether they send children to school more often, do more business, work together, become more mindful about their health. We expect positive change for the people who receive the cash transfers. But we are also not naive, we cannot solve all these problems with just our project. We want to share the insights gained after the pilot project with Proximus, Umicore, manufacturers, governments and other social players to investigate where adjustments can be made and especially to see whether we can generate a greater impact.

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