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Make do and mend – circularity comes full circle

Recently we were honored to receive a couple of recognitions – our A- CDP result for our work in reducing our carbon footprint and carbon disclosure, but also in 2019 we received a recognition in Finland for our circular practices, as well as gaining recognition in early January 2020 for our work in circularity from the JAC Forum, an association of half of the world’s leading telecom operators. 

And these got me thinking.

Our grandparents and in some cases great grandparents lived at times where scarcity, rationing, and working long hours to pay for the basics of food and shelter were the norm. Nothing was thrown away if another use could be found or its usefulness could be extended. Clothes were altered for others to use or for different uses. Food was simply not wasted. Machines were repaired and fixed not just replaced when they broke down. Parts were reused.

Reuse, recycle, refurbish.

Make do and mend was a phrase used in government campaigns in the UK in the 1940s, a long time before the term circularity was a buzzword.

Many things have changed for the better since those days, but we are at an inflection point for this planet that requires us to ask ourselves – did we lose our common sense along the way and how do we get it back – and quickly.

A few numbers to digest.

1/3 of all food is lost or wasted globally, enough to feed all the hungry.

More than 150 000 000 tons of plastic in the oceans today.

44 700 000 tons of e-waste each year.

Only 9 % of the resources used in the world are then recycled.

All big numbers, but what can be done to change those numbers. Legislation and regulation alone are not enough. Our behavior as consumers needs to change but the actions companies take will also play an important part in enabling a more sustainable and circular economy.  It takes both demand and supply of sustainable choices.

Refuse and reduce.

These are two other options for consumers and even companies to add to reuse, recycle, refurbish.

Consumers can refuse to buy a product that is not sustainable, has more packaging than product or is not a necessity. Companies can reduce the size and virgin materials of their products and improve their recyclability. It is essential for a company to understand their waste data and ensure the policies, procedures and practices are implemented that make sure their operations are based on a circular approach.

Designing products to be more sustainable from their conception is critical. That’s why at Nokia we follow Design for Environment principles and procedures and have a robust environmental management system in place.

We have been implementing circular practices and providing circular products at Nokia for a number of years. We take back legacy products from customers including other manufacturers’ products. In some cases, they can be reused by customers or internally as refurbished and repaired units, or broken down for parts harvesting.  Products can also be recycled to generate raw material for another application or industry, but this must be done with reputable recycling companies. This approach helps reduce the need for raw material extraction, and reduces water and energy consumed in electronics manufacturing, all of which reduces Co2 emissions. 

Operationally, we focus on reducing waste and energy consumption. Full year numbers will be available in our next sustainability report in April 2020, but for example in 2018, there was a 9% reduction in office waste per employee, 27% of electricity was generated from renewable sources, and we sent around 4 100 metric tons of old telecommunications equipment for materials recovery and we reused approximately 56 000 units, equaling about 4700 tons of Co2 emissions that were avoided.

Our aim going forward is to expand. Our circular approach to recycle, reuse and refurbish our products has been applied to key larger product lines, but this supply chain element is added to standard product creation processes allowing a much broader portfolio application going forward.

We continue to mend and make do in the words of our grandparents and great grandparents. Only by working together and implementing practical solutions and adding refuse and reduce to reuse, recycle, refurbish can we build a more sustainable circular planet. Read more about what we do as a company.

Circular practices and products
Nokia Circular Practises and Products

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Pia  Tanskanen

About Pia Tanskanen

Pia is responsible for Nokia’s environmental programs. She has spent over 20 years working in global ICT, for both B2B and B2C. She is passionate about environmental topics, such as #zeroemissions, #tech4climate, #sustainability innovation and value creation, and recycling & circular economy.

Tweet me at @piatanska

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