Pioneering Recycling of Electronic Waste in Russia

Tele 2

12. Responsible Consumption and Production

Overview

Tele2, one of the largest mobile operators in Russia, launched a unique environmental project for our country, “The Pereplavka”, in the fall of 2020. Throughout the year, anyone could hand over an old phone for recycling in one of 579 Tele2 retail outlets. This project contributes to the UN's SDG 12 "Responsible Consumption and Production" and allows one to dispose of their phone without harm to the environment while also increasing environmental awareness among Russian citizens. We met via Zoom with Alena Dymchishina, the project manager of “The Pereplavka”, to learn more about the project.

Authors

Anastasia Merzliakova

Anastasia Merzliakova

Ellina Nurullina

Ellina Nurullina

Anastasia Bolotina

Anastasia Bolotina

School

National Research University Higher School of Economics

National Research University Higher School of Economics

Professor

Ekaterina Ivanova

Ekaterina Ivanova

Innovation

The project implemented by Tele2 is a sustainable marketing innovation because it helps to promote the eco-friendly value creation of the company. Responsibility is becoming a part of common brand value and Tele2 has announced environmental and social initiatives that put the onus back onto the customer. “The aim of the project is to draw the clients’ attention to the problem of recycling electronic waste”, explained Alena Dymchishina. Smartphones contain many useful fractions, such as plastic, copper, non-ferrous metals, etc., that can be recycled.

At the beginning of October 2020, Tele2 retail outlets installed special boxes in 60 regions of Russia where anyone can bring their used smartphone for recycling. “Everyone who handed over an old device for recycling before November 1 received gifts from Tele2: a certificate for 1,500 rubles for the purchase of a smartphone in the retail outlets or 10 GB of mobile Internet”, explained the Project Manager of “The Pereplavka.”

After the boxes are full, all devices are sent for recycling to the Ecopolis Corporation (Moscow and the Oryol region), which specializes in the disposal of electronic equipment. Phones are then processed into different fractions (e.g. plastic, non-ferrous metals, etc.). “As a result, 85-95% of recycled materials will return to production and not a single part will end up in a landfill”, claimed the Project Manager.

Alena Dymchishina clarified that, until now, no operator in the telecom market has had the same sustainable project. She shared, “We can call it innovative for this industry in Russia.”

Pioneering Recycling of Electronic Waste in Russia

Inspiration

The initiator of “The Pereplavka” project is the marketing department of Tele2 in Russia. Alena Dymchishina told us that the idea was created by a working team of the marketing department in 2019, and then she was assigned to manage this project. “Pilot version of the project was deployed in 11 regions of the country, in order to find out how relevant is the topic of processing smartphones for Russia,” she recalled. “The environmental initiative was warmly accepted, so it was decided to scale the project to the entire territory of Russia”, Alena explained.

“The Pereplavka” project is closely related to the company's brand. Alena said that the working team decided that only phones from its electrical devices would be accepted for recycling, to link the company's brand with the sustainable marketing project.

Overall impact

The manager of “The Pereplavka” claims that as for concrete results, they are still difficult to assess. According to the pilot project's results, Alena points out the growth of marketing indicators: “relevance for people like me”, “it supports my lifestyle”, and these are image indicators that directly affect the indicator “willingness to consider an operator”, and "this contributes to a growing subscriber base.”

A positive contribution is that Tele2 popularized the problem of electric waste in Russia and created a way to minimize the impact of it. Since the advertising campaign for this project was carried out in the media at the Federal level, millions of people learned that Russia has such a problem. Thus, Tele2 raised awareness about electronic waste countrywide.

On the other hand, while “the environmental impact is difficult to quantify, if each of these phones were thrown away, they would cause severe environmental damage. And when there are a lot of such phones, you can already talk about a large-scale problem,” Alena explained.

Business benefit

There are several components. First, it increases brand awareness in the telecommunications market. “The Pereplavka” is the first major project to recycle phones. There are similar initiatives, but usually, this is just the collecting of unnecessary household appliances. No company has a similar project of this scale at the Federal level.

Second, Tele 2 strives to be a responsible and sustainable business. According to their research, Tele 2 knows that the high-income segment is interested in, for example, the problem of waste recycling. Therefore, touching on this topic is an attempt to increase loyalty and attract such clients, which in the end positively affects the growth of the subscriber base and business profits.

Social and environmental benefit

If we talk about the social and environmental impact of the project, it is important to note two key areas in which results were achieved: increasing the level of awareness of people and the number of devices that were shared to recycle.

According to research conducted by the company, even those people who are interested in recycling and sorting garbage often do not know that phones also need to be properly recycled. The role of Tele2 was to convey information about the relevance of the problem and this was a new word in the telecommunications technology market because none of the competitors had a similar project in sustainable marketing. Even if people do not have a used phone in their house right now, they will remember this and if a broken device appears, they will already know where to bring it for recycling.

Tele2 has not yet been able to estimate the contribution to the environment in numbers, but if each of these phones were thrown away, it would cause harm to the environment. So that it can be argued that the contribution from such a large-scale project as "The Pereplavka", in which many regions of Russia took part, was significant.

The pilot version of "The Pereplavka" project started for only four weeks, during which the company collected phones, and then the boxes were removed and there was no longer an opportunity to recycle mobile phones. This year, Tele2 has not just launched a promotion for only a month, but it has already become a project for the entire year. So the idea turned into a full-fledged sustainable marketing project and not simply an advertising campaign.

Interview

Alena Dymchishina, Project Manager, Marketing Department

Photo of interviewee

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Tele 2

Tele 2

Moscow, RU

Business Website: https://tele2.ru/

Year Founded: 2003

Number of Employees: 5001 to 10000

Tele2 Russia is a subsidiary of the international telecommunications company Tele2 AB. The parent company is located in Stockholm, Sweden. By the end of 2019, Tele2 Russia provided cellular services to more than 44.6 million customers. The company is one of the largest mobile operators in Russia. Net profit in 2019 amounted to RUB 6.6 billion, which is 144.6% more than in 2018. According to statistics, Tele2 occupies the first place in terms of the speed of development of cellular base stations.