O2 is partnering with TerraCycle, a global leader in hard-to-recycle waste to roll out recycling boxes to O2 stores across the UK. With over a billion items of PPE distributed across the UK in the early months of the pandemic, and additional volumes expected as the retail sector reopens for business, O2 has taken proactive steps to manage this new waste stream to ensure that PPE plastics can be safely collected, cleaned and recycled to produce new plastic products.
TerraCycle offers a wide range of Zero Waste Box solutions to businesses, which are easily accessible recycling solutions for any previously non-recyclable products and packaging. Employees collect the various waste streams, including PPE, using the designated Zero Waste Box, seal the box and send it back to TerraCycle. When TerraCycle receives the Zero Waste Box for recycling, the material is aggregated before being cleaned, shredded and melted into pellets which can be remoulded and used in the manufacture of new products such as outdoor furniture, decking, storage containers and watering cans, reducing the need to create new virgin plastics.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created an exponential growth in the demand for and use of PPE, with the vast majority of this equipment, including masks and gloves, made of plastic. Recent reports show PPE being found in our oceans and on our shorelines, impacting our fragile ocean ecosystems. And there’s growing evidence of the devastating effects of plastic pollution on marine life, with an estimated 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and 1 million sea birds killed by plastic pollution annually, according to UK charity City to Sea.
Tracey Herald, head of partnerships & Social Impact at O2, said: “With billions of items of PPE now in circulation, it’s easy to see why environment and conservation experts are sounding the alarm. That’s why we’re delighted to announce our partnership with TerraCycle, which will ensure the PPE keeping our customers and employees safe in stores is responsibly recycled. This new scheme will help minimise our impact on the planet and is an example of the many steps O2 is taking in its journey to becoming a net-zero business by 2025.”
Stephen Clarke, head of communications at TerraCycle Europe, said: “The exponential growth in plastic PPE could be very costly for the planet. That’s why we’re proud to be taking a leadership role with O2 in safely and responsibly recycling the PPE used across their retail estate in the UK. We would encourage more retailers to work with us and to follow the example O2 is setting.”
The scheme builds on O2’s commitment in March to become a net-zero business, tackling carbon emissions in its business and supply chain. O2 has the longest running major UK network recycling initiative in the UK, where customers can trade in their old devices for cash incentives. The scheme has saved over 450 tonnes of mobile phone waste from going to landfill, with all devices received being data-wiped and reused or recycled.