To minimize the amount of waste we send to landfill, Bell runs several programs to reduce, reuse, recycle or repurpose waste generated to operate our business.
Diverting waste from landfillGRI 306 1, 306 2, ODD 12.4, 12.5, SASB
WHY IT MATTERSG R I 103
We generate waste in all aspects of our business operations. Waste reduction is essential because it is part of our engagement to improve on our operational efficiency and it aligns with the values and expectations of our team members.
WHAT WE ARE DOING
We have been running waste sorting, reduction, and recovery programs for over 25 years at Bell. We have established objectives, monitoring processes, and reporting on our waste generating activities.
Bell has integrated much of its installation and construction functions. This makes us accountable for managing a large part of our network waste ourselves. Outsourcing such functions would allow us to reduce our waste‑to-landfill results, however, we would not be able to maintain direct control over functions that directly influence the customer experience and operations.
Impact of COVID-19 on our waste data
Normally, we would present data related to overall waste in this section. However, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our operational and administrative activities has made the data related to our waste incomparable and, therefore, not meaningful. In early 2020 in particular, in compliance with Public Health requirements, business activities dramatically diminished as team members were asked to stay home. For many months following the initial quarantine, we operated on the premise that we would be back to our offices imminently. We did not reconcile ourselves to the fact that working from home would be a long‑term reality until late in 2020.
Our waste data for a portion of our operations and for our administrative buildings are in part comprised of estimates based on the average weight of third party waste collection service containers – estimates which were not updated until late in 2020. Since minimal numbers of team members were in our offices, and since the waste data are fundamentally based on the number of container pickups multiplied by a predetermined average weight under normal operating conditions, the data are not representative of the reality for most of the reporting period. Moreover, our waste data is meant to show evidence of the success of our initiatives to change waste sorting behaviours and reduction efforts. In order to evaluate the success of such programs, precise and consistent data are needed. The data, therefore, are not meaningful, nor are they decision-useful.
Despite these circumstances, we will continue to pursue our goal of reaching and maintaining 55 kg of waste sent to landfill per employee per year in Bell‑owned or -leased administrative buildings by 2024. However, we are closely monitoring what the future of office work looks like, and will adjust our target accordingly.
Despite the pandemic and the absence of most team members in our offices in 2020, we implemented initiatives to reduce waste at the source. Our latest initiative is the introduction of a policy on single-use plastics. We eliminated the distribution of single-use plastic bags in all retail stores and when team members return to offices, they will find that we have established restrictions on all unnecessary single‑use plastic items in on-site cafeterias across Bell properties – including plastic straws and stir sticks, unrecyclable coffee pods, creamers for coffee and condiments. Additionally, when it is safe to do so (following COVID-19 guidelines), we will no longer provide bottled water in Bell buildings where potable tap water is available.
While most of our team members worked from home, our operational teams continued to deploy services and build out our network across Canada, even if at a reduced rate during the initial months of the pandemic. We continued to replace aging and damaged telephone poles, replace network batteries and replace tires on vehicles. Original equipment manufacturer tires that were removed were sold to the tire installer to be reused on other vehicles. And we completed the integration of Bell MTS into our national waste management operations.
For information on operational waste diverted from landfill during the reporting period, see the Waste management information sheet under the Key documents tab. Please note that we do not consider this data to be meaningful due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our business activities.
Hazardous wasteGRI 306-2, 306-3, 306-4 SDG 12.4.2
We continue to pursue our established target of recovering and diverting to certified recyclers 100% of generated hazardous waste by 2024. Currently, we are diverting 100% of the hazardous materials we recover, including all of our network batteries and residual material from our fleet services. Our metric illustrates the gap between generated and recovered hazardous waste. Network batteries make up the greatest proportion of hazardous materials generated at Bell. Other hazardous materials include aerosols, absorbents, oil containers and fluorescent tubes.
In previous years, we reported having collection gaps in Atlantic Canada and Manitoba for aerosols, fluorescent tubes and paint. In 2019, we closed the gap in Atlantic Canada. We are working on implementing an improved collection program in Manitoba for aerosols, fluorescent tubes, and paint. We aim to have such collection services fully operational by 2024.
In 2020, we were able to recover and divert to certified recyclers approximately 99% of all generated hazardous materials.Footnote 1: PWC provided limited assurance over this metric. See PwC’s assurance statement
Recovered fleet and hazardous waste
See the Waste management information sheet under the Key documents tab for more details.
See the Waste management information sheet under the Key documents tab for more details.
Environmental stewardship for customer-facing electronic devicesGRI 306-3, 306-4, 306-5, SDG 12.4.2
WHY IT MATTERS G R I 103
Due to the rapid obsolescence of communications devices, particularly mobile phones, they represent an increasing proportion of electronic waste (e‑waste). E‑waste disposal is a global issue with global attention now on the health of those who end up sorting the components.
Our relationship with customers provides an opportunity for effective management of product recycling, reuse, and disposal. Communications companies like Bell, therefore, face increasing regulatory compliance requirements related to this issue. Multiple jurisdictions across Canada have implemented separate and sometimes conflicting e‑waste collection and recycling regulations, requiring companies to finance the collection, treatment, recycling, or proper disposal of devices. Our relationship with customers also creates a risk to our reputation if we do not properly address the e-waste issue.
WHAT WE ARE DOING
We have implemented an effective program for managing e‑waste recycling, reuse, and disposal, including national take‑back programs, drop boxes, and mail‑in instructions.
Recovery of mobile devices is difficult to predict and control, as it depends on the rate at which customers upgrade to newer devices. Often, recovery depends upon economic activity: during economic downturns, people upgrade their devices and sign up for new plans less frequently. This was certainly the case in 2020 when access to our retail stores was severely limited due to the COVID‑19 pandemic and this ultimately led to a decrease in the number of mobile devices collected for recycling this year. It is also dependent on customer behaviour. A 2017 CWTA/Recycle My Cell study reports that 62% of Canadians say they have mobile phones in their possession that they are not using and are being stored. This has made it difficult for us to predict how many phones we would be able to collect and therefore difficult to set a target.
Bell recovers mobile phones through two complementary programs: the Bell Trade-in program and the Bell Blue Box program. Launched in 2003 and available at all Bell stores, Virgin Mobile stores and participating The Source locations, the Bell Blue Box program was the first cross-Canada collection program established by any company for re-using and recycling mobile phones. From 2016 to 2020, Bell has donated over $250,000 of the net proceeds from our mobile phone recovery program to a partner in the Bell Let’s Talk mental health initiative.
In addition, Bell participates in provincial recycling programs for other electronic products, such as tablets, headsets, TVs, computers, and batteries. For more details on these programs, visit Bell.ca/recycling.
In 2020, thanks to our customers’ participation in our recovery programs, Bell diverted more than 2,537 tonnes of electronics from landfill. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, store closures resulted in less foot traffic and thus less opportunity to collect e‑waste in‑stores. A decrease of 172 tonnes of e-waste was recovered in 2020 compared to 2019.
Customer-facing electronic waste recovered,
diverted and disposed
2019-2020 (tonnes recovered, diverted from disposal, and disposed of)Footnote 1: PWC provided limited assurance over this metric. See , PwC’s assurance statement
Waste diverted from disposal
Waste directed to disposal
Change in Recovered Waste from 2019 to 2020
Mobile phone batteries
Mobile phone accessories
Bell's customer-facing device recovery target
We believe that we have an important role to play in the recovery of used electronic devices from customers given our close relationship with them. In 2017, we began reporting on our progress toward our target of recovering 10 million used TV receivers, modems, and mobile phones between January 1, 2016 and the end of 2020.
Store closures due to the COVID‑19 pandemic led to an overall reduction in the total number of devices collected. Despite this challenge, we recovered 2,094,234 units in 2020. We have now recovered over 11.7 million units since January 2016 and surpassed our goal of recovering 10 million devices by over 17%.
Customer-facing electronic devices recovered
2016-2020 (number of units collected)Footnote 1: PWC provided limited assurance over this metric. See PwC’s assurance statement
Since exceeding our previous e‑waste target, we have set a new target to recover 7 million of used TV receivers, modems, and mobile phones between January 1, 2021 and the end of 2023. During this period we will also explore a new approach based on circular economy.
Transition to a circular economy
Circular economy has gained significant momentum recently and is in line with our vision to maximize the integration of the economic, environmental and societal aspects of our business.
Managing our waste based on a circular economic model would instill a more holistic approach that focuses on reducing waste at the beginning of the production life cycle and enables us to work with customers and partners to create a cyclical way to reduce and reuse waste in our business and in our industry.
A great example to illustrating what circular economy looks like in the communications industry is Bell’s rental model for TV receivers, otherwise known as Set-Top-Boxes. A typical TV service installation, purchased by a customer from Bell, requires a Set-Top-Box for each TV. Bell maintains ownership of all Set-Top-Boxes and operates a rental-only model where Set-Top-Boxes are not sold to customers. By maintaining 100% ownership of Set-Top-Boxes throughout their entire life cycle we are able to maintain, repair and reuse our Set-Top-Boxes creating a closed-loop system for our technology. In 2020, Bell recovered over 1 million Set-Top-Boxes from customers and of those we were able to redeploy over 700,000 to customers.
See the Waste management information sheet under the Key documents tab.