Hubbub and O2 team up to trial new re-use initiative in Southwark, designed to help those without online access during the coronavirus crisis
O2 has today partnered with environmental charity to launch a new initiative designed to both reduce levels of e-waste and help those who lack access to digital services during the coronavirus lockdown.
Dubbed 'Community Calling' the trial project will initially see 800 refurbished smartphones and O2 Pay as you Go SIM cards distributed to ‘digitally excluded' people in Southwark, London.
Despite the huge and growing reliance on digital services throughout the lockdown, covering everything from online shopping to e-learning for children out of school, an estimated 1.9 million UK households are 'digitally excluded' from internet access.
Meanwhile, four smart phones are thought to be sitting unused for every one in use across the country
The trial in Southwark, which could be expanded if it proves successful, aims to encourage people to donate 500 old or unused smartphones which will then be data-wiped, cleaned and refurbished by specialist company Recono.me before being gifted to vulnerable members of society. O2 is also donating an additional 300 handsets alongside providing pay as you go SIMs and top up to be used with the donated devices.
A pre-identified list of households that are eligible for the refurbished devices has been put together by a number of local organisations in Southwark. Their clients include the elderly, those in low-income households, survivors of domestic abuse and asylum seekers.
Once complete, O2 and Hubbub will share the learnings from the trial to help inform recycling and re-use initiatives in other cities across the UK.
"Connectivity is a lifeline for so many at this time - and with so many smart devices sitting in drawers at home, this project provides the perfect opportunity to dust them off for a good cause," said Tracey Herald, head of partnerships and social impact at O2. "The Southwark community has been particularly affected by the recent pandemic, so we're working in partnership with Hubbub, the local council and community groups to ensure we can distribute these devices to those who need them most. The trial will help us tackle digital exclusion and help the environment too."
Gavin Ellis, director and co-founder at Hubbub, said the initiative would deliver both social and environmental benefits. "Community Calling offers a simple way to get unused smartphones to people who need them most during the current pandemic, allowing them to access essential services, to educate their kids or to stay in touch with loved ones," he said. "Plus it has the bonus environmental benefit of avoiding electrical waste going to landfill or incineration. We're trialling the approach with O2 in Southwark and if successful, we'll look to replicate it elsewhere in the UK."
The move is the latest in a series of initiatives from O2 to try and boost smartphone re-use and recycling rates. It also follows the mobile operator's recent announcement that it aims to become the UK's first net zero emission network by 2025.
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