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Waste Management

Materiality Assessment Topics: E-waste; Hazardous and solid waste

Issue Summary

Business operations produce waste throughout their value chains. This waste can be minimized on the front end by increasing operational efficiency and on the back end through recycling and responsible disposal.

Our Position

We seek to minimize waste throughout our operations—from the buildings we occupy to the services and devices we sell.

Data Highlights

2017 Key Performance Indicators
  • Total waste managed by AT&T1: 444M pounds
  • Total waste recycled by AT&T1: 149M pounds
  • AT&T total waste diversion rate1: 33.6%
  • Total number of devices reused or recycled through AT&T: 30M+
    • U-verse set-top boxes reused or recycled: Nearly 5M
    • DIRECTV set-top boxes reused or recycled: More than 12.6M
    • Broadband devices reused or recycled: Nearly 4.6M
    • Mobility devices reused or recycled: More than 8M

Our Action

We are committed to reducing waste in our operations and responsibly handling the waste that we produce. In 2017, we began working on a goal—announced in 2018—to achieve “zero waste” by 2020 at 100 AT&T facilities, including our Dallas headquarters.2

Waste Overview

AT&T manages the waste generated by our business operations through numerous channels. Our total waste figure represents all waste accounted for through AT&T’s general solid waste, investment recovery and hazardous waste programs. We continually strive to expand our scope of waste reporting and reduce the environmental impacts of our waste. AT&T also proactively seeks to create productive uses for our waste at the end of its life. In total, AT&T managed 444 million pounds of waste and recovered more than 30 million consumer devices in 2017.

Investment Recovery

At AT&T, the Investment Recovery (IR) group in our Supply Chain organization leads the way in establishing our best-in-class practices for minimizing the impact of our waste on the environment. IR works across all entities and affiliates of the company to reuse, sell and recycle materials (including operational waste, network materials and scrap) that are considered solid waste. In 2017, the group sent less than 4.9% of the materials it received to landfills.

The 95% landfill diversion rate for IR is an example for the rest of AT&T of how productive uses can be generated out of our waste. In 2017, IR handled more than 57.5 million pounds of operational waste and kept more than 54.7 million pounds of these materials from landfills, including:

  • Copper and copper cable: 14.2 million pounds
  • Steel: 9.3 million pounds
  • Lead: .8 million pounds
  • Plastic: 2.4 million pounds
  • Aluminum: .8 million pounds


In 2017, the group continued to expand its program and expertise to assist international groups, wireless and other AT&T entities in the proper disposal of electronic, network, cable and other assets.

General Solid Waste

In past years, AT&T measured the company’s solid waste diversion rate by submitting surveys across facility management. The surveys ask for input on waste pick-up schedules compared to those of recycled material as well as estimates of how much material was recycled or disposed of as waste. For 2016, the survey revealed a 29% diversion rate. Last year, as part of our efforts to get more accurate measurements of waste, we began working with our suppliers to get a more detailed analysis of our diversion rate.

This year, our suppliers provided estimates and hard measurements of our waste, but there are limitations to their waste estimates. For example, they estimate full containers for all dumpsters that are picked up. Nevertheless, we believe the new methodology is a more accurate assessment and provides us with expanded actionable information. In 2017, we learned our general solid waste diversion rate was only 18%. Our total waste management amount was 174,000 tons. 31,700 tons of that waste were recycled, with a significant amount—more than 9,300 tons—coming from corrugated material and paper.

Regulated Waste

In 2017, the AT&T Resource Recovery Center managed more than 13,150 tons of regulated waste. We recycled 9,530 tons of this waste—for a diversion rate of 72%.

Internal E-Waste

AT&T is committed to managing electronic waste in a respon­­sible manner. Directed by policy, the AT&T Global Supply Chain Investment Recovery group directs e-waste collected for recycling to vendors that are R2 certified. AT&T internal electronic waste is responsibly recycled to the R2 standard. In 2017, more than 12 million pounds of e-waste were managed for recovery and recycling, including 70,000 computers, monitors, servers and other office equipment for sale and/or recycling. Additionally, we manage programs to reclaim and divert high-value network resources such as copper telecommunications wire and central office equipment.

Consumer Devices

At AT&T, we strive to increase device recycling and encourage our customers to be a part of this ongoing initiative. Because a device’s reusable life doesn’t end after its first owner, collecting these devices makes both business and environmental sense. In 2017, we reused or recycled more than 30 million devices, including:

  • More than 12.6 million DIRECTV set-top boxes;
  • Nearly 5 million U-verse set-top boxes;
  • Nearly 4.6 million broadband devices; and
  • More than 8 million mobility devices.

To ensure responsible recycling, our device recycling vendors are R2 certified. The R2 Standard for electronics recycling and refurbishment facilities covers areas such as worker health and safety, environmental protection, chain-of-custody reporting and data security.

To learn more about our product recycling and reuse and our packaging waste reduction efforts, read our Product Life Cycle issue brief.

1 Improvements to our waste data tracking now allow us to report total waste managed. AT&T’s total waste and recycling figures, and the diversion rate thereof, represent all waste accounted for through AT&T’s general solid waste, investment recovery and hazardous waste programs.

2 AT&T utilizes the 90% threshold standard for “zero waste,” as defined by the Zero Waste International Alliance,

3 As we cannot entirely isolate all non-regulated material in our management processes, it is possible that non-regulated waste may be included and measured in the total regulated waste reported.

Updated on: Nov 20, 2018