Everyone violently agrees the circular economy is important but is it all talk and no action in telco-land?

New research from TXO Systems (Debunking telcos’ circular economy myths) has revealed what just about everyone in telecoms already knew – that 90% of telecom operators believe the circular economy is important. Even more so with the current focus on supply chain disruption, hitting sustainability targets, meeting customer expectations for greener operation and, of course, the need to reduce costs.

More interestingly, the report reveals that while CSPs are fully committed to sustainability, love to talk about how important the circular economy is, and are absolutely convinced it’s going to be vital for their businesses going forward, they’re at high risk of issue-washing.

This is because while 75% say they plan to recycle equipment in the next five years, only 52% say they’ll be repairing equipment, just 49% will be reselling it and as few as 44% say they’ll buy refurbished equipment.

Darren Pearce, Group CEO, TXO

Darren Pearce, Group CEO, TXO says: “It’s clear telecom operators understand the benefits of the circular economy, yet penetration is still fairly low due to four industry barriers which are in fact myths. Debunking these myths are key steps we need to take to encourage more operators to give pre-owned equipment the same consideration as new, as well as refurbish, resell or recycle their existing equipment”. 

Four mistaken beliefs are holding operators back

So what are the myths standing in the way of telecoms’ green nirvana?

At the risk of spoiling your enjoyment of Darren’s report, TXO says the four main barriers are that CSPs believe pre-owned equipment is unreliable and too expensive, too slow to source, and that the whole circular economy proposition is too complicated (particularly at a time when they have so much else on – such as building and monetising new networks).

The circular economy challenges the telecoms industry to move beyond simply recycling e-waste to reducing wastage by designing in sustainability from the start – in both its equipment and its processes. Equipment has to be built to be refurbishable, renewable and reusable in order to keep it in use for as long as possible. Only when no more use can be squeezed out of it, should it be recycled.

What’s getting repaired?

According to TXO’s research, 50% of fixed line operators pointed to power equipment as the most likely to be repaired or refurbished. For almost 4 out of 5 CSPs (38%) it’s their core network equipment.

In the mobile market, just over a third (36%) of operators say they’re using repaired or refurbished equipment in their core network, while 27% are repairing or refurbishing power equipment.

These figures demonstrate there’s still an awful lot of scope to drive up rates of refurbished and renewed equipment.

Conversation starter

With offices in the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, North America, Brazil and Australia, TXO wants the industry to turn its back on the throw-away economy and start having a conversation about re-use of equipment – not least because that’s their business model. With close to one million parts of multi-vendor networking equipment in stock, as well as an asset recovery solutions for clients, Pearce says his company is ideally placed to increase telecoms operators participation in the circular economy.

“As operators face pressure to upgrade their networks to meet internal and government targets,” he says, “the circular economy enables them to accelerate network roll-out, as well as reduce their carbon footprint, minimise waste, reduce costs and ease pressure on supply chains. Expanding recycling capabilities to network equipment is the obvious next step for the industry. But we need more action to happen faster. Only then do we have any chance of achieving a greater circularity in telecoms and reaching our sustainability targets.”