Fibre for the planet

Via this series of successful business cases, the FTTH Council Europe's Sustainability Working Group aims at promoting full-fibre connectivity as the most sustainable access network technology.

 

In December 2019, the European Commission presented the European Green Deal with the ambition of making Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, boosting the economy, improving people's health and quality of life, caring for nature, and leaving no one behind.

More and more, fibre connectivity is recognised as a key asset to align the digital and sustainability agendas. Being the most sustainable telecommunication infrastructure technology, full-fibre is a prerequisite to achieving the European Green Deal and making the European Union’s economy more sustainable.

As a result, the need to work collectively towards a more sustainable society has become a strategic objective not only for policy makers but for the vast majority of private organisations, part of the FTTH value chain.

 

Use of recycled plastics in CPEs (Customer-premises equipment)

Member company: Genexis
Country or geographical scope: Global
Period: 2018 onwards
Company type: Vendor/Reseller
Product/service category involved: CPEs

Abstract

CPE equipment vendors can limit or even abandon the use of virgin plastics in the housing of their CPE products, by using recycled plastics instead. This has a positive impact on the circular economy, where materials can be reused. Recycled plastics material is easier and more cost-efficient to obtain in darker colors, so in practice using recycled plastics often means the products will have a black color.


Context

Policies and agreements like The Paris Agreement are driving the adoption of more sustainable products and processes. From multiple angles there is more pressure and need to reduce our environmental footprint and therewith limit global warming. This also applies to the FTTH market. The whole value chain, ranging from end-users to operators/ISPs and suppliers, is demanding for more sustainable products and solutions.

There are many aspects of sustainability, but maybe the most well-known one is recycling. With recycling, waste materials are converted into new materials. Meaning there is no need of virgin materials, while the waste materials get a new life. Recycling is nowadays widely applied for plastic packaging, but still less in products. This is a missed opportunity since this is also a feasible solution for plastic products housings of CPE equipment.
 

Solutions

Today, most plastics suppliers provide solutions for using recycled plastics in product housings for CPE equipment. The recycled plastics can offer the same specifications compared to virgin materials, while the cost difference is relatively small. This cost difference depends however on the color of recycled plastics: to obtain a white/light color, lighter color types of plastics need to be filtered out from waste streams, which is a labor-intensive task and therefore more expensive. In addition, it is more difficult to achieve a fully smooth white product surface. Hence, in practice we see that most of the recycled plastics in CPE products are black. This keeps the cost impact under control, while simplifying the recycling process and ensuring an evenly colored product surface.
 

Results

By implementing recycled plastics in its CPE portfolio, Genexis achieved multiple results. One example is a custom-made product for KPN, the Tier-1 network operator in the Netherlands. One of KPN’s goals is to use almost 100% reusable materials by 2025. To support KPN in this goal, Genexis developed a Network Terminator (NT) which uses >98% recycled plastics for the products housing.

According to the results of a professional Product Circularity Report, besides the recycled housing a total of 56% of the materials used in the NT can, in theory, be recycled. Furthermore, the NT is well designed for disassembly and almost all connections are accessible. This results in high levels of component recovery. For all details, please refer to the Product Circularity Report that can be found here.
 

Conclusions

Recycling is very common for plastic packaging, but unfortunately less common for CPEs so far. This is a missed opportunity, since recycled plastic materials are widely available with similar specifications and at similar pricing levels compared to virgin plastics. Achieving white recycled plastics out of a wide color range of waste streams is a challenge however, therefore we see a trend of an increasing number of black CPEs in the market. The question is whether operators, ISPs and end-users will accept this, but hopefully this will not be a blocking factor in making CPEs more sustainable.
 

Contact

Martijn Rooijakkers, Sr. Commercial Product Manager, Genexis
m.rooijakkers@genexis.eu

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