Dutch firm 'can offset Africa's e-waste,' for a fee

A Dutch company has radically reshaped its business of recycling electronic waste in Africa.

In 2016, the company - Closing the Loop - began tagging a fee onto new devices purchased by its European clients, including major Dutch bank ABN Amro and the Dutch government.

The extra money from roughly $6 per phone and $18 per laptop now funds electronic-waste collections in a string of African countries...

...and ships it to a recycling facility in Italy.

This is Reinhardt Smit, the supply chain director of Closing the Loop:

''They purchase something called 'waste compensation' from us...That way they can say they are getting towards zero waste, they can involve their employees…all their employees with their mobile phones will know that this mobile phone will not contribute to waste in the world.''

Recovered metals are sold on the open market, or turned into jewelry.

This year, the company expects to book its second annual profit since 2016.

Experts say this business model is promising but investing in recycling facilities closer to their source would be even better for the environment.

Smit said Africa currently still lacks the infrastructure needed to do that.

''There is no working financial system to collect waste, because waste is not valuable in the first sense."

In the meantime, Verde Impacto Nigeria, one of Closing the Loop's African partners said they are learning how to be more efficient in the recycling process.

"The first is that they give us these insights, this is how we can handle this material, this is how we can process it, this is how the scavengers can actually handle this process, so the relationship has been a 360 degrees relationship whereby they help in funding, they help in processes and all.''

E-waste is the fastest-growing source of household trash worldwide, according to the U.N.'s Global E-waste Monitor 2020.

It is projected that e-waste will hit 74 million metric tonnes by 2030.

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