The circular economy can be so tangible

15 February 2019

The call for corporate social responsibility is getting louder around the world, but the reactions are often limited to nice reports and appealing ambitions. However, more and more Dutch companies develop actual social business models. A piece of jewellery that was given to State Secretary Van Veldhoven yesterday serves as a good example.

There is no escaping: the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ambitious government plans for the 'circular economy' and strong Davos statements from large companies are everywhere nowadays. The utopian vistas would almost make you forget that the current operation of the economy is not yet waste-free. A sad example of this is the IT sector. Worldwide, 50 million tons of electronic waste is being disposed of each year; chemical waste. A problem: certainly. But also a huge opportunity in our view.

In recent years, Closing the Loop became known in the 'e-waste' world because it was the first company to collect full containers of defective telephones in countries such as Uganda and Ghana. Telephones that would end up on dump sites which would result in raw materials - such as gold, silver and copper - to be wasted. Converting these phones into scarce raw materials is a huge opportunity. These raw materials now form the basis for the next step of Closing the Loop.

Gold from African waste is by far the best choice for anyone who buys this precious metal. To speak in terms of social return: the CO2 footprint is very low, it is conflict free and contributes directly to waste reduction. Urban mining is therefore the most sustainable choice. Closing the Loop would like to see this choice made more often. And to achieve that, the potential of African e-waste must become more visible.

The first step to this goal was taken yesterday. Closing the Loop presented the first product made of gold and silver from broken phones: the circular jewel Nowa (No Waste). The hundreds of thousands of phones that Closing the Loop shipped from Cameroon late last year, deliver the metals. The first copy was handed over by director Joost de Kluijver to the State Secretary for Infrastructure and Water Management, Stientje van Veldhoven. De Kluijver: "Phones can become a symbol of Dutch circular innovation. This jewel shows how bizarre the term 'waste' actually is. Our goal is therefore to convert e-waste into social, commercial and sustainable values."

Do you also want the Nowa jewel? Check the Kickstarter page or Nowa's website.