New £500k fund launched to tackle electronic waste, Time After Time

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New £500k fund launched to tackle electronic waste, Time After Time

By Alex Robinson 28th October, 2022

This fund has now closed. Find out about the winners and supercharge your project with our latest round of funding here.

We’re delighted to announce the launch of the £500,000 'Time After Time E-Waste fund', in partnership with Virgin Media O2. The fund will boost pioneering electronic waste (e-waste) initiatives with grants of between £10,000 and £75,000.

We’re seeking innovative UK-based projects that will reduce e-waste by making it easier for people to do the right thing: getting our old electricals fixed, passed on to a new owner or recycled.

A big problem and a big opportunity

Electronic waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world. The facts are mind-blowing. The international Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Forum report that e-waste will grow to 74 million tonnes a year by the end of the decade. This year, 5.3 billion mobile phones will be thrown away across the globe. And while it’s a global problem, we’ve earned the unwelcome status of world leaders: the UK produces more electrical waste per person than any other country except Norway.

We might not realise it, but the electrical items we throw away contain some of the most valuable materials on earth, including steel, copper, aluminum, gold, silver and lithium – and in significant quantities. For example, it’s estimated that there’s 100 times more gold in a tonne of smartphones than in a tonne of gold ore. Up to 7% of the world’s gold may currently be contained in e-waste. No wonder there have been calls to 'mine' landfills rather than actual mines: an approach that would also have huge carbon savings compared to digging materials out of the ground.

Charging up the agenda

The 'Time After Time E-waste fund' isn’t just for technical solutions: we’re keen to hear from projects that will increase people’s understanding of e-waste, and bring the issue to the public’s attention. We also want to reach new audiences: 16–24-year-olds, for example, who are heavy users of electrical items but often unsure how to dispose of them.

Our focus is on small electrical items, by which we mean anything with a plug or charger that can easily be carried by one person: smartphones and laptops, kitchen appliances, hairdryers, electric toothbrushes and vapes, to name but a few. There are approximately 40 million unused gadgets stashed away in UK homes, which won’t come as a surprise to anyone whose home has a drawer or cupboard full of electrical items gathering dust.

The opportunity to keep electrical items and the valuable materials within them in circulation is huge but currently only one fifth of electronic waste ends up being recycled, and three out of ten people don't know how to go about recycling it.

A step in the right direction

Further focus, investment and innovation is urgently required from government and business to help solve this issue. By supporting solutions and raising awareness of this crucial issue, we hope the 'Time After Time fund' is a step in the right direction.

The initiative forms part of VMO2’s 'Better Connections Plan' – the company’s new corporate responsibility and sustainability strategy, where it will use its purpose, people, and products to power a better, more connected, and greener future for its customers and communities nationwide. The aim is to enable 10 million ‘circular actions’ by 2025.

It builds on Hubbub’s existing work with VMO2, such as Community Calling, which is addressing the e-waste challenge by boosting smartphone reuse and tackling digital exclusion. Thanks to the generosity of members of the public and businesses which have gifted smartphones, Community Calling has now successfully redistributed more than 12,000 second-hand smartphones along with more than £1m of free O2 mobile data. All devices are data-wiped and refurbished before they are rehomed with someone who needs them. 

We’ve also partnered with VMO2 to launch the 'Tech Lending Community Fund' which has made grants of between £55,000 and £83,000 to five organisations across the UK that will provide more than 1,000 refurbished tablets to people living in temporary accommodation and who are digitally excluded.

Time after Time

We've paired up with VMO2 to exploring ways to make positive choices around electrical items, time after time.

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