How we’re recycling old modems to make new ones

Our new 5G Modem 2 is made from 95% recycled plastics with the aim to include up to 30% recycled plastics sourced from old modems.

We’re finding innovative ways to make tech more sustainable and build on our environmental commitments - and are excited to now be making modems from modems.

Our Telstra Stores accept old smartphones, and recently expanded to take other e-waste like your old modems. This not only keeps them out of landfill, but also allows us to reclaim the original materials that went into making them great in the first place.

These phones and modems not only contain things like plastic that we can use, but also rare earth metals like gold and silver that we can reuse. It’s about making our products more 'circular' and reducing the need for virgin materials.

The latest Smart Modem 3 is one of the first products we’re selling that benefits from recycling.

We made the Smart Modem 3 more environmentally friendly

We worked hard with our experts to make little changes with big impacts. Ultimately, we wanted to include eco-design principles at each step of the design process to make a more environmentally friendly product.

And it’s about more than just taking recycled material to make the new product. We had to look at the whole problem.

For example, we’re now reducing the number of cables included in the box to the ones you really need. That way, they don’t gather dust in your junk drawer.

We’ve eliminated the need for unnecessary cables and the distance saved stretches between Sydney and Byron Bay.

(Calculations are based on the length of the ethernet cable which is 1.5m and the estimated number of smart modems shipped in FY22.)

We also looked at how we wrap and package the product before it gets to you. We removed all unnecessary plastics – including the clingfilm we used on our logo and made sure the box is not only made of 100% recycled material, but is also 100% recyclable so the material can be recovered for use in something else.

We even changed the modem itself from white to black. This little change allowed us to use more than 80% recycled plastics in the design for the modem enclosure.

Our new 5G 2 modem uses 95% recycled plastics made from recycled materials sourced from modems.

Finally, we conducted a trial where we used old modems to make new modems in a proof-of-concept that's the first of its kind. That’s a pretty big deal from a few small changes!

Our product design comes full circle

Circularity is the future of products. Telstra is in a unique position because we design and procure modems, distribute, recover, refurbish and recycle them. We are the epicentre of the materials ecosystem and engaging across existing and emerging partners in this field places us in a strong position to effect impact and change.

Telstra’s Smart Modem 3 is already attracting attention from industry. It won The Australian Financial Review's Sustainability Leaders Category - Technology, Media & Telecommunications. It has also been shortlisted for the Procurious Sustainable Procurement Project of the Year 2022.

We’re building sustainability into all our products

In FY23 we:

  • reused or recycled 632,919 mobile phones, modems and other devices
  • transitioned 100% of Telstra branded products to new sustainable packaging that is made of recyclable materials and is fully recyclable
  • increased our network waste recycling rate to 79%.

But, there’s always more to do to improve the efficiencies of our products.

We're working on further increasing the percentage of recycled plastics in the Smart Modem, as well as using other materials recovered from our Telstra eCycle program. This could include materials such as aluminium, copper, rare-earth elements and other valuable components inside the modems.

We are thrilled to have won an Australian Financial Review Sustainability Leaders Innovation Award, in the category of Telecommunications, Media and Technology for the Telstra Smart Modem 3.

Being recognised for the work we're doing to minimise the resources we use proves its importance. It also highlights how much more we can do.