June 5, 2023

World Environment Day: UK Mobile Operators Step Up To Help #BeatPlasticPollution

Every year, World Environment Day serves as a timely reminder that human activity continues to carry significant environmental consequences.  

World Environment Day 2023 focuses on why and how we need to transition to a circular economy as quickly as possible, with a focus on plastic pollution.    

The day is designed to make people aware that their individual actions on plastic pollution matter, and that the steps governments and businesses are taking to tackle plastic pollution are the consequence of this action.  

The campaign is carrying the strapline #BeatPlasticPollution, and the UK’s mobile network operators continue to support this end goal through numerous recycling and circular economy aligned initiatives.  

Here’s a snapshot of what each of them are doing…  


  • EE runs its Trade-in service for customers to recycle old phones, tablets, gaming consoles, laptops, and smartwatches.  Customers send in their unwanted or damaged devices to be securely refurbished or recycled – with more than 180,000 devices prevented from going to landfill as a result.
  • Around 98% of devices are reused and given a second life, with the unusable 2% broken down and recycled for parts.  
  • EE’s Trade-in service is on track to have reused or recycled one million devices by summer 2023, with customers receiving £150 - £200 on average.
  • To continue to tackle e-waste, EE also has a next-day repair scheme to fix damaged devices and extend their lifecycle. More than 50,000 devices are expected to be repaired this year and every device is sent to the closest local EE store to restrict carbon emissions from unnecessary transit


  • Three is helping to beat plastic pollution through its Three Recycle scheme. Customers agree a quote to sell their used handset, while the company arranges for free post and packing. Users can trade in all major brands of phones, tablets and wearables, including Apple, Samsung, Sony, HTC, Nokia and LG, regardless of what network they are on. Once Three receives and checks the device, it is passed onto a third party so it can be reused and recycled.

Virgin Media O2

  • Virgin Media O2 offers a similar buyback service through O2 Recycle. Since launching, the mobile operator has paid out more than £230 million for all kinds of phones, including damaged devices. It operates a zero waste to landfill policy, meaning the vast majority of phones it receives will be reused, repaired or recycled for parts.

Vodafone UK

  • Vodafone UK has a range of initiatives in place to help tackle e-waste and promote a circular economy. These include extending the life of devices with Vodafone EVO offering free battery replacements for up to three years and a total care warranty; encouraging the reuse of working devices through its refurbished phone range and by donating devices to people in need through its Great British Tech Appeal; and a device loan scheme for businesses.  
  • Vodafone also offers recycling of tech and routers both instore and online; and Vodafone and WWF have joined forces on a campaign called ‘one million phones for the planet’ to encourage customers to trade-in or donate their old devices. Vodafone UK has removed more than 100 tonnes of plastic from its delivery packaging to date.

Visit our Connectivity and Climate Change page for more information on how mobile technologies are working towards net zero.  

About Building Mobile Britain

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Building Mobile Britain is a campaign created by Mobile UK seeking to work with national and local government, as well as interested industry groups to overcome the challenges we face with expanding the existing mobile networks, while also developing innovative services for customers.

See here for further information - or #BuildingMobileBritain

Media Contacts

Gareth Elliott
Head of Policy and Communications
Tel: 07887 911 076

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