We seek to minimize waste throughout our operations – from the buildings we occupy to the services and products we sell to customers.
1 2019–2020 data include select WarnerMedia and Xandr locations.
2 2017–2018 data for waste generation and management represent all waste accounted for through AT&T Inc.’s domestic U.S. general solid waste, investment recovery and hazardous waste programs. The 2019–2020 data for waste generation and management represent all waste accounted for through AT&T Inc.’s domestic U.S. general solid waste, investment recovery, e-waste, furniture recycling, paper shredding, pallet recycling and regulated (hazardous and non-hazardous) waste programs, unless otherwise noted.
3 Due to improved reporting, total non-hazardous waste composted and reused are included as distinct categories for the first time in 2020.
4 This category represents non-hazardous waste for which data on the management method was unavailable. AT&T is continuously working with vendors to integrate enhanced waste reporting metrics into contracts.
5 This category consists of hazardous wastes for which the waste management vendors did not report the final disposal method, primarily because they were consolidated with wastes from other companies at the treatment, storage and disposal facilities prior to final disposition. Our Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) Waste team is continuously working with those vendors to more accurately report the final disposition of all AT&T hazardous wastes.
TOPIC: Zero Waste
2020 TARGET: Achieve “zero waste” by 2020 at 100 AT&T facilities, including our Dallas headquarters.
PROGRESS: Achieved zero waste 6 6 AT&T utilizes the 90% threshold standard for “zero waste,” as deﬁned by the Zero Waste International Alliance, https://zwia.org/zero-waste-business-certification. at 21 AT&T facilities and are applying lessons learned.
While we did achieve zero waste at 21 AT&T facilities, not all participating locations had sufficient recycling resources in their area to enable us to reach our overall 100-facility goal. We learned valuable lessons during our pursuit of this goal, including that zero waste is not always the best path for the environment if waste must be transported long distances to facilitate recycling.
Our takeaway from this experience is that AT&T should not pursue zero waste at a net cost to the environment. This lesson will serve as a guiding light for our waste reduction efforts moving forward.
TOPIC: Landfill Diversion
2030 TARGET: Reduce the amount of U.S. waste we send to landfill by 30% (2019 base year).
PROGRESS: Launched 30x30 goal.
We set our 30x30 goal in May 2021 with the ambition to pursue increased impact by tackling our entire waste footprint. The impact of this initiative is anticipated to exceed that of our 100-facility zero waste effort by 104 times (based on the total weight of waste diverted from landfill), as this expanded goal applies to more than 3,000 sites. We will begin reporting progress toward this goal in 2022.
We are committed to reducing waste in our operations and responsibly handling the waste that we produce.
Our waste recycling and management programs are covered by several diﬀerent organizations across our operating companies, including Supply Chain; Environment, Health and Safety (EHS); and Real Estate. Our Supply Chain team manages electronics recycling with several e-waste recyclers, and the Supply Chain Investment Recovery unit focuses on the recycling and potential resale of high-volume common materials within our internal network operations. EHS manages regulated waste generated by various AT&T operations, including the Construction and Engineering, Technical Field Services, and Mobility business units. EHS also provides guidance to AT&T’s various business units regarding the recycling of batteries and e-waste and the management of other regulated wastes. Our Real Estate teams focus on general solid waste generated at corporate facilities. WarnerMedia teams focus on managing and reducing various waste streams from WarnerMedia productions and corporate facilities. Our Supply Chain teams manage our electronics recycling with several e-waste recyclers.
The AT&T Global Supply Chain Investment Recovery (IR) group leads the way in establishing our practices for minimizing the environmental impact of our internal waste and e-waste. IR works with our contracted R2-certified vendors to recover and recycle network infrastructure assets. Materials are dismantled, sorted and baled by commodity in preparation for sale or recycling. Scrap materials processed by IR include copper and fiber-optic telecommunications wire and central office equipment.
In 2020, IR handled more than 23,863 MT of domestic U.S. operational waste and kept more than 23,298 MT of these materials from landﬁlls, for a diversion rate of 97.63%.10
General Solid Waste
In 2020, AT&T’s Real Estate Program managed 145,901 MT of general solid waste.9 Of that total, roughly 31,126 MT was recycled, resulting in a general solid waste diversion rate of 21.3%. More than 16,000 MT of recycled waste consisted of corrugated material and paper.
In 2020, as part of an Internet of Things (IoT) collaboration with one of our third-party waste vendors, we piloted a smart dumpster monitoring system to reduce our costs and carbon footprint while improving workflows. We will continue expansion of the pilot in 2021 to further reduce AT&T’s waste expenses, as well as miles traveled, fuel usage and associated carbon emissions for our waste management vendor.
SOLID WASTE GOALS
AT&T set a goal to achieve “zero waste” by 2020 at 100 AT&T facilities, including our Dallas headquarters.6 We learned valuable lessons during our pursuit of this goal, including the realization that zero waste is not always the best path for the environment. While we did achieve zero waste at 21 AT&T facilities, not all participating locations had sufficient recycling resources in their area to enable us to reach our overall 100-facility goal. The emissions associated with transporting waste long distances to remote recycling facilities meant the environmental benefit of recycling did not always outweigh the environmental cost. Our takeaway from this experience is that AT&T should not pursue zero waste at a net cost to the environment. This lesson will serve as a guiding light for our waste reduction efforts moving forward.
While our journey to zero waste has been met with challenges along the way, AT&T’s ambitions remain. We are now pursuing increased impact by tackling our entire waste footprint. We’ve established a “30x30” goal to reduce the amount of waste our haulers send to landfill 30% by 2030. The impact of this initiative should exceed that of our 100-facility zero waste effort by 104 times (based on the total weight of waste diverted from landfill), as this expanded goal applies to more than 3,000 sites.
AT&T also plans to continue our Zero Waste Furniture Program. This sustainable furniture disposition program has a goal to divert from landfill 90% of AT&T’s surplus office furniture – such as surplus office desks, tables, file cabinets, chairs, modular panels and office partitions. Our disposition strategy is to 1) reuse, 2) resell, 3) donate or 4) recycle. In 2020, the program handled over 2,000 tons of surplus furniture across 44 projects – recycling over 1,000 tons, reselling over 600 tons and donating approximately 500 tons.
GENERATING ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL IMPACT WITH OUR WASTE MANAGEMENT
Baling recyclable materials improves their sale price. AT&T installed an industrial baler at our logistics warehouse in Argentina, helping manage the cardboard and plastic waste generated by our prepaid kit production line.
Since 2016, we’ve collaborated with El Correcamino – a local recycling partner and work cooperative – to manage this baled waste. AT&T donates the waste to El Correcamino so it can sell it to third-party organizations, helping provide work and income for vulnerable families in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area.
CONTENT PRODUCTION WASTE
For decades, WarnerMedia companies have been committed to environmental sustainability and working with our feature ﬁlm and television productions around the world to implement sustainable practices and reduce their environmental footprint. As our industry evolves, we are working to accelerate innovation toward more sustainable production practices by supporting innovative technologies, including LED set lighting and digital distribution software; sustainable products such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certiﬁed lumber and post-consumer recycled paper; and waste reduction eﬀorts such as donating surplus food and materials to community partners. Waste prevention is another key strategy – for example, distributing scripts and other production documents digitally reduces the need to print.
Supported by WarnerMedia’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) team and equipped with informational tools and reporting resources, each participating production designates a person to lead sustainability efforts in collaboration with department heads and crew. When a TV show or film wraps, we donate surplus items from the production to non-profit community partners. In 2020, WarnerMedia – through its reuse program, Encore – contributed more than 10,437 meals, 878 pieces of furniture and 75,697 articles of clothing to 41 non-profits.
Hazardous and Other Regulated Waste
AT&T is committed to complying with all applicable environment, health and safety laws and regulations, and to promoting pollution prevention, including through recycling and minimizing waste.
In 2020, the AT&T Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) waste program managed approximately 11,747 MT of regulated waste, which includes hazardous and non-hazardous waste. We recycled 10,387 MT of this waste – for a diversion rate of 88%.11
We have created a formal set of procedures for managing and disposing of hazardous waste, applicable to all operating companies. To ensure compliance and improve the accuracy of waste reporting and metrics for those business units that directly hire vendors to manage their hazardous and other regulated waste, we enhanced our systems and processes in 2020 to ensure that records for all hazardous and other regulated waste disposal are gathered in one place for comprehensive tracking.
AT&T’s primary hazardous waste includes compressed gas cylinders, aerosol cans, acidic wastes, batteries, contaminated soils and contaminated liquids. To minimize the impacts of hazardous waste, we look first to find ways to reduce the amount generated. Our highest priority is always recycling, and we have implemented battery and aerosol recycling programs to divert those waste streams from landfills. Where there is no recycling option, hazardous waste is either incinerated or disposed of in an appropriate landfill as a last resort.
At AT&T, we believe all electronic devices should be reused, refurbished or recycled. We strive to increase device recycling and encourage our customers to participate in this ongoing initiative. Because devices can be reused, refurbished or recycled, collecting unused devices makes both business and environmental sense. For more information about recycling AT&T devices, visit our device recycling website.
AT&T is committed to managing our own electronic waste in a responsible manner. AT&T’s internal electronic device waste, as well as assets and materials managed by our AT&T Global Supply Chain Investment Recovery group, is responsibly recycled with vendors certified to the R2 standard. We also follow the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive and the Waste and Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive for electronic waste disposal.
To learn more about our product recycling and reuse and our packaging waste reduction eﬀorts, read our Product Life Cycle issue brief.