How recycling your phone can save the planet

Madlen Popignatova 17
Article by: Sophie Poulsen
How recycling your phone can save the planet

Many of us are everyday users of smartphones. And when our smartphone breaks, we might get it fixed, we might sell its parts, or we might tuck it away and forget about it while we buy a new one.


Luckily, recycling our broken phones is becoming an easier and more convenient reality — and it’s because of companies like Closing the Loop, whose aim is to ensure that e-waste such as old cell phones is collected and recycled responsibly.


We got a chance to speak to Closing the Loop’s founder Joost de Kluijver, who during his time at THNK, developed the company’s business propositions, improved its position in the telecom industry, and strengthened its role as a circular frontrunner.

Seeing the problem as an opportunity

Now a commercial entity, Closing the Loop started as an NGO five years ago with the aim of solving the problem of mobile phone waste — and with 44.7 million metric tons of e-waste generated in 2016 (the equivalent of 4,500 Eiffel Towers), it is an undeniably significant problem.

With 16 years of experience in the telecom industry, Joost felt that the industry was long overdue for an upgrade. By reframing the problem as an opportunity, Joost was not only able to build a solid business case for Closing the Loop, but he also came up with a strong solution for recycling e-waste.

recycling your phone

THNKer and Closing the Loop founder Joost de Kluijver posing with a shipment from Uganda.

By using a simple concept based on carbon offsetting — the process of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by compensating, or offsetting, an emission made elsewhere — Closing the Loop offers companies the possibility offset the impact of their phones. For every phone that companies buy for their employees, Closing the Loop recovers a scrap phone from Africa or Asia. This way, the newly bought phone becomes material-neutral and companies can ensure that they are not contributing to global e-waste.

Since its inception, Closing the Loop has saved 1.9 million phones in emerging markets, extended the life cycles of more than 145,000 phones, and introduced circular telecom for 25 organizations.

In January 2018, Closing the Loop won the Circular Award 2018, which recognizes innovative projects and entrepreneurs that demonstrate the circular economy in action!

Learn more about the innovative company that won the Circular Award 2018!

What can you do?

When treated inadequately, e-waste poses serious health issues since it contains hazardous components, including contaminant air, water, and soil, putting people’s health at risk.

Fortunately, reducing e-waste is something that every one of us can do quite easily.

For example, don’t replace your phone just because one button isn’t working. “Phones can be repaired and can be used often several years longer than people think,” Joost explains. “Here in Europe, we use our phones only for one and a half years on average.”

To be a better mobile user and consumer, Joost suggests to “look at the phones that you buy, who produces them, and how they are being produced. If you have a phone that you’re not using anymore, make sure that somebody else can use it to give it a second life.”

In 2016, only 20% of all e-waste was recycled, which is why it is so important that we do our part — whether it’s by supporting companies like Closing the Loop or by playing an active role in recycling our own e-waste.

recycling your phone
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Joost is one of the many inspiring leaders who participated in the THNK Executive Leadership Program.

To pursue your own project that could save the planet, join the upcoming THNK Executive Leadership Program.