Virgin Media O2 has successfully trialled the use of recycled aggregate while building new network in Cranhill, Glasgow, helping to reduce its environmental impact as it expands its ultrafast fibre services to more homes and businesses in the city.

The trial, which was completed with support from Glasgow City Council and planning and design specialists, C-Plan, saw the company use recycled stone and sand when reinstating the ground after laying fibre cables in two Glasgow streets.

The majority of telecommunications companies use new materials sourced from quarries when building or expanding their network. However, the success of the trial, which saw the sustainably sourced materials undergo on-site testing and monitoring, paves the way for more expansive use of recycled materials in future.

With more than 100,000 tonnes of aggregate used each year by Virgin Media O2’s Project Lightning network expansion programme, switching to recycled aggregate could save more than 450 tonnes of carbon emissions per year.

Virgin Media O2, which launched in June 2021, is a new joint venture between Liberty Global and Telefónica in the UK. The new company aims to combine its connectivity, people and brands to accelerate action on climate change, and has set a goal of achieving net zero carbon operations (scopes 1 and 2) by the end of 2025. It has also committed to using its gigabit and 5G connectivity to help power smart technology to lay the foundation for a low carbon future for the UK.

Prior to the joint venture, both businesses boasted a strong track record in driving innovative recycling initiatives. This includes O2 Recycle, which has recycled around 3.3 million devices and paid out more than £250 million to customers and Virgin Media’s device refurbishment programme, which has seen 1.3 million products reused in 2020 alone, extending the life of the devices and supporting the circular economy.

Rob Evans, Managing Director of Fixed Network Expansion at Virgin Media O2, said:

“In every area of our business, whether it’s through the design of our products, the way we operate, or the materials we use when we’re building new network, we’re constantly evolving to help in the fight against climate change.

“This trial shows our commitment to doing things differently and reducing our environmental impact as we bring gigabit services to more homes and businesses on the streets of Glasgow and help to upgrade the UK.”

Councillor Angus Millar, Chair of the Digital Glasgow Board, said:

“Schemes such as this carbon reduction project in Glasgow help the city meet our ambition to become net-zero carbon by 2030. We were pleased to work with Virgin Media O2 on this project to reduce their environmental impact, and are always open to any such proposals – we all have to work together to tackle the challenges of climate change.”

In March this year, Virgin Media performed a ‘business first’ by using a combination of construction techniques to connect thousands of homes in Swadlincote, South Derbyshire, in a low-impact build. In addition to the more commonly used narrow trenching techniques, the company also installed new cables in existing underground ducts and used Openreach’s overhead telegraph poles to connect the area. This helped reduce the need to build new infrastructure, helped minimise disruption to local people and the environment, and enabled the efficient and faster rollout of the operator’s gigabit capable network.

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