If successful the project will expand out to other areas in the country
O2 has partnered with environmental charity Hubbub to encourage users to donate unwanted phones during the coronavirus pandemic.
The project is aimed at providing those with less access to digital connectivity the opportunity to stay connected.
The trial which is called ‘Community Calling’ will pilot in Southwark, where 800 refurbished handsets will be distributed.
According to future.now figures there are 1.9 million UK households without internet access.
These households are seen as a ‘digitally excluded’.
The handsets are refurbished, data-wiped and cleaned by Recono.me, with pre-identified households selected for distribution.
These homes are determined by local organisations in Southwark, focusing on low-income groups, the elderly, survivors of domestic abuse and asylum seekers.
O2 has also confirmed it will be donating an additional 300 handsets, alongside pay-as-you-go SIMs.
It is thought that there are an average of four unused phones for every phone in use in the UK.
O2 however has its own recycling initiative in the UK, and claims to have saved over 450 tonnes of mobile phone waste going to the landfill.
O2 head of partnerships and social impact Tracey Herald said Southwark has been particularly impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.
“Connectivity is a lifeline for so many at this time – and with so many smart devices sitting in drawers at home, this project provides the perfect opportunity to dust them off for a good cause.
“The trial will help us tackle digital exclusion and help the environment too.”
Hubbub director and co-founder Gavin Ellis added: “Community Calling offers a simple way to get unused smartphones to people who need them most during the current pandemic, allowing them to access essential services, to educate their kids or to stay in touch with loved ones.
“We’re trialling the approach with O2 in Southwark and if successful, we’ll look to replicate it elsewhere in the UK.”