The current linear economic system of "extract, manufacture, consume, throw away" has reached its limits. We want to contribute to shifting towards a more circular economy, requiring fewer resources and producing less waste.
What is the circular economy?
The circular economy is about conserving our resources to create a sustainable economy without waste and CO₂ emissions. It is about moving from the current traditional (so-called linear) model where we produce, use and incinerate to an economy where resources and products are kept in use for as long as possible.
At Proximus, we have set up programs to reduce the use of raw materials and in which we involve our suppliers, employees and customers in order to achieve our ambition: to become a truly circular company by 2030. In particular, we offer our suppliers the opportunity to sign our Manifesto, in which they undertake to collaborate with us in the implementation of specific projects and initiatives to contribute to a more circular and environmentally friendly economy.
In order to reduce the use of raw materials, the first question to ask oneself is about the need to produce. Is this device really necessary? Can't we dematerialize, for example by offering our customers a solution in the cloud rather than installing servers on their premises?
If we really need to produce, the question is how: which materials to use, which design to favor in order to allow repairs.
This is done in collaboration with our suppliers, customers and all departments involved in the marketing of a product at Proximus. This is an innovative approach whose objective is to offer more virtualization solutions, more efficient resource management, easier dismantling, components from urban mining, products with a longer lifespan. And therefore more ethical products, which generate less pollution and CO₂ emissions, with better energy efficiency, less packaging, and which make it possible to limit the impact of transport and storage. The Fairphone meets these criteria and is moreover a telephone without raw materials from conflict areas, built by ensuring fair treatment of all workers.
A virtuous cycle
The manufacture of the product will therefore be carried out by favoring the use of renewable sources over the use of finite resources. The life of the product will be extended, thanks to the possibility of repairing, refurbishing and reusing it.
In the Proximus distribution center in Courcelles, where all our logistics operations are centralized, no fewer than 336,000 modems and decoders were refurbished and redistributed to our customers in 2019.
We have signed a mobile access network sharing agreement with Orange Belgium, which will reduce the number of antennas, and therefore the use of raw materials and energy, but will also enable a better quality of service.
When a product is definitively no longer reusable, its design will allow it to be easily recycled by recovering a maximum of components. In this way, we will avoid the production of residual waste. On average, a mobile phone contains 0.02 grams of gold, 0.09 grams of silver, 0.375 grams of lithium and 3.375 grams of cobalt. It may not seem like much, but if we compare: 8.5 tons of raw ore can produce up to 42 grams of gold, compared with 2 kilograms for 8.5 tons of electronic waste! Yet today only 20% of electronic waste is recycled. This is why we launched a major campaign called "Don't miss the call" at the beginning of 2020, with the aim of collecting and recycling 150,000 mobile phones in Belgium.
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 our commitment to create a more sustainable future for our planet, we launched – together with co-founding partner Umicore – "Don’t Miss the Call", an urban mining campaign aiming to collect at least 100,000 old mobile phones in one year. Through this action, we hope to make phone recycling a real Belgian habit.
Discover how you can recycle your old mobile phones and encourage your company or school to answer the call via www.dontmissthecall.be