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More than 4 in 10 people believe they can’t donate smartphones, research indicates

A hand holds two phones. By Daniel Romero on Unsplash.

More than 4 in 10 people (44%) believe they can’t donate smartphones, according to research from Virgin Media O2 and environmental charity, Hubbub. Virgin Media O2 estimates that there are almost 15 million unwanted devices in homes and garages across the country.

More than half of those surveyed (53%) however said they would want their phone to be rehomed with someone who needs it, and more than 4 in 10 (47%) believe donating their device is better for the planet as it can be given a second life rather than ending up in landfill as electronic waste. 

The research (two online polls of just over 1,000 people each) also reveals almost two thirds (62%) donate to charity as they want to feel good about helping others, while nearly half (48%) will pass on an item to a good cause if they know it will have a positive impact on someone’s life. Almost two thirds (63%) also say they want to contribute more positively to society.


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Virgin Media O2 and Hubbub are urging people to rehome their unwanted smartphones with people in need via its Community Calling scheme, which was established in 2020 in response to the pandemic to provide smartphones to help people who couldn’t afford devices or connectivity to get online.  The initiative has now donated 20,000 devices to those who need them across the country, including victims of domestic abuse, refugees, and disadvantaged communities. Partners include Women’s Aid, Crisis, and Migrant Help, and Supporting Children with Diabetes.  

The devices are powered with free O2 mobile data from the National Databank, which was set up by Virgin Media O2 and Good Things Foundation.

People can send their unwanted working smartphones to Community Calling for free where tech partner Genuine Solutions will data wipe their device before it is rehomed.

Dana Haidan, Chief Sustainability Officer at Virgin Media O2, said:

“We know people in the UK want to do more to help communities in need, and with millions of unused phones stashed in drawers and garages, they’ve got the power to change lives by donating their devices to Virgin Media O2 and Hubbub’s Community Calling scheme.


“The quick and easy act of donating a phone will help people in need to get online and access essential services, like a booking a medical appointment, applying for a job or taking part in training, or keeping in touch with loved ones.”

Alex Robinson, CEO of Hubbub, said:

“Four years after Covid-19 hit, digital exclusion remains a significant issue for hundreds of thousands of people in the UK. We’ve made donating a device to Community Calling easy and straightforward, to encourage even more businesses and individuals to pass on their old devices to support those facing digital exclusion.”