In Africa, hundreds of millions of broken mobile telephones end up in landfills every year. The consequences are obvious: not only does this result in pollution and health hazards, but also a loss of valuable metals, including gold. Closing the Loop is a socially engaged company and the first in the world to transform this waste problem into an opportunity for recycling. She buys up discarded telephones in developing countries and have them recycled in Europe. This month, the company bought its one millionth discarded telephone in Cameroon.
Every year, more than two billion mobile telephones are produced. Although exact numbers lack, experts agree that only a tiny percentage of electronic waste is recycled. In 2013 only 3% of the telephones sold in Africa were recycled. There are only five plants in the world that are able to successfully and safely recycle mobile telephones. In developing countries, there are no good recycling facilities at all and discarded electronics are often dumped or burned in the open air.
Creating jobs with waste
To collect these mobile telephones, Dutch NGO Closing the Loop collaborates with local partners in Africa. The company’s partner in Cameroon, Njaha Herve Bardo, purchased Closing the Loop’s 1,000,000th telephone in person from one of its suppliers. According to Herve, electronic waste causes numerous problems. ‘However, we would rather look at this from a positive perspective. Not only do we want to engender awareness for this problem; we also want to contribute a solution. We create jobs out of waste. Closing the Loop enables the impoverished population to recycle its waste and, by doing so, earn money. This is a win-win situation for all parties involved.’
Garbage men of the telecom industry
At European recycling plants 90 to 95% of various metals such as gold, silver and copper are recovered from mobile phones. Closing the Loop ensures that these metals can be reused for new electronic devices. ‘We are making mobile phones cleaner, more honest and circular,’ says Joost de Kluijver, founder and director of Closing the Loop. ‘You could consider us the innovative garbagemen of the telecom industry. Our foremost objective is actually to render ourselves obsolete. Once properly functioning recycling plants are set up in developing countries we will no longer need to bring discarded electronic waste into Europe.’