Operator Swisscom reached the landmark of having a million used smartphones returned for recycling and reuse since the launch of a scheme promoting the donation of handsets in 2012, with all proceeds going to charity.

The Swiss company’s Mobile Aid project appeals to customers and those of rival operators for the donation of used handsets at its stores. Smartphones are then cleared of data, with those able to be reused sold on and the remainder recycled.

Proceeds from sales and materials derived from recycled units are given to a children’s charity.

Announcing the milestone, Swisscom CEO Christoph Aeschlimann (pictured left, receiving the landmark donation) thanked customers, adding: “The proceeds from the one million mobile phones donated have already paid for 5 million meals for children in need”.

The operator estimates there are still eight million unused handsets in Switzerland with a material value of more than CHF60 million ($63 million).

“In view of the scarcity of natural resources, the material obtained from the recycling process is itself highly valuable,” the company noted in a statement.

“The rare earth minerals required to manufacture new mobile phones are sourced from all over the world. Mobile Aid has enabled Swisscom to tap into a resource within its own country which, through recycling, creates social employment with low entry requirements.”

Device recycling and reuse has been a major driver for the mobile industry and regulators in recent years in an attempt to curb the growing volume of eWaste and improve the sustainability credentials of the industry.