This is how Fairphone is changing the smartphone industry from the inside out

This is how Fairphone is changing the smartphone industry from the inside out

Creating fair(er) phones, that is Fairphone‘s mission. As Circular Innovation Lead, Miquel Ballester knows all about how to make an impact. We interviewed him about his role at Fairphone, ambitions and future plans.

You have been with Fairphone pretty much from the start. What makes Fairphone unique, according to you??

We zijn een sociale onderneming en we zijn geboren vanuit de behoefte om sociale en We are a social enterprise, and we were born to inspire social and environmental change in the electronics industry – through the development of our own product, which makes all of our projects much more tangible and powerful. What makes us unique is the impact that we have with this approach: Sustainability is not an afterthought, it’s at the core of what we do.

You are the Circular Innovation Lead at Fairphone. How would you describe this role?

I’m part of the Value Chain Innovation team. We’re always looking for new opportunities and collaborations to make an impact in the electronics industry. My focus within the team is anything that has to do with the transition to the circular economy. This doesn’t only include recycling but also the design and longevity of our product. We did a project in Ghana for example, in which we collected old phones and recycled them.

Miquel Ballester Circular Innovation Lead Fairphone

What would a typical day look like for you?

I’m an early bird, so I usually get to the office at 7:30 am. When there’s no one around, I can focus best. I write briefings for new projects or go through my emails for example. From 9:00 am my colleagues start to come in and there are usually meetings scheduled. In our weekly team meeting, we discuss our projects and the challenges that come with them. Within the value chain team, we all have our own specific topics – giving us the opportunity to learn from each other. And since we’re always looking to collaborate with external experts, I also have meetings outside of the office.

At lunchtime, the entire Fairphone team comes together. 70 great people work in our HQ in total, and it’s really cool to see everyone mixing during this time of the day. In the afternoon I try not to have too many meetings. I have some focus time again and finish up the work I have to do that day before I leave the office at 4 pm. I live in Rotterdam, so I have 40 minutes of commute. In the evening I like to work out and I spent a lot of time cooking, maybe too much time (laughs).

Fairphone telefoonhoesjes

Just like it is for us, recycling materials is an important part of your work. How does Fairphone approach this?

We believe in a circular economy and we are working towards integrating more recycled materials into our phones. Realistically though, we will always need virgin materials as well. Therefore, mining will continue to be a part of the supply chain. But when we use virgin materials, we make sure that they are sourced in the right conditions. We are currently collaborating with Solidaridad and Unicef on a project in Uganda. This project is all about improving the standards of the working conditions in the mines. Right now, there’s a focus on wages, health and safety. In the future, we will keep on working on new materials and continue to develop the communities that live from mining. We really want to be a vehicle for change in the regions that need it most.

Looking back at your achievements with Fairphone 2, what would you say is a major product milestone?

Fairphone 2 is the first modular smartphone in the industry. We made it modular, because we want people to keep our phones far beyond the industry average of two years. This design makes it a lot easier to repair separate parts of the phone. It’s possible to change a phone screen without any tools for example – in under a minute. And it has lots of benefits for recycling as well, as this project with vanPlestik demonstrates.

Fairphone telefoon

Fairphone’s community is of great value for the company, can you tell us some more about that?

We zijn erg danWe are very thankful for our community, they have been really patient with us. A big part of our community is very engaged in what we do. We take their ideas and complaints very seriously – ultimately, they help us grow.

And when we talk about our community, we’re thinking about Fairphone customers, but also about our employees and partners that share our goals and ambitions. They are often an essential source of knowledge on where we are going and what we are doing.

Why are Fairphone and vanPlestik a good match, according to you?

We love vanPlestik’s approach to recycling! Using waste material that otherwise would be discarded is something that really speaks to us. Often, plastic waste in consumer electronics is burned. We wanted to put the plastic waste we have as a company to good use, so we are really happy with this collaboration.

Gerecycled plastic van telefoonhoesjes

What are the plans for the coming year?

We are always on the hunt for new impact projects. On a product level, we are continually reinventing as well. We are currently working on a new product. Unfortunately, we can’t share too many details about that just yet, it’s still in the development stage… stay tuned!

Besides that, we are looking into offering Fairphone as a service. In collaboration with Circular Economy, we are doing a pilot for businesses at the moment. The goal is to extend the lifecycle of our product, as we’ve seen that very few devices come back to us. If the phones are returned after use, it’s easier to refurbish or recycle them.

What change does Fairphone hope to make in the industry?

We hope that one day, the amount of recycled material becomes a topic to consider in the process of a consumer buying a product. Whether it’s a smartphone, toaster or washing machine. To make this happen, we have to lead by example. We believe that the best way to change the industry is to be a part of it. By making phones, we’re establishing a market for fairer electronics, opening up the supply chain, creating a positive impact and building new relationships between people and their products.

Upcycled waste bins for HEMA

Upcycled waste bins for HEMA

A product to create zero-waste headquarters

Over the last year, we have been working on our biggest collaboration project yet. We are excited to finally share the results of our project for the retail chain HEMA.

We designed and 3D printed almost 200 waste bins for their headquarters. Using old make-up displays from the HEMA stores, we created four different kinds of bins: One bin for paper, one for organic waste, one for regular waste and one for coffee cups. Together, these four bins complete one waste separation station.

The complete package: A custom-made and user-friendly design

To ensure the usability of these stations, we included helpful aspects in the design. Among these are the various colors and sizes of the bins, multiple cut-out lids and engraved labels. Another unique product characteristic is that the HEMA logo is embossed on the side, which adds a personal touch to the bins.

Closing the recycling loop

This project guided us through an exciting year of designing, testing and prototyping. By making these stations out of their own waste, HEMA Nederland was able to recycle a used product and get a new one in return. This project is one of our favorite examples to show how we can upcycle an old product and contribute to closing the loop of plastic recycling.

Are you curious about what we could create out of your plastic waste? Send us an email to for potential collaborations.

Hygienic Hooks: Plastic Recycling takes on COVID-19

Increasing the hygiene level during the Covid-19 crisis

During the latest Coronavirus outbreak, measures and restrictions have been put into place to protect the population from getting infected. Among these are the requirements of wearing face masks, washing your hands regularly, and keeping the required distance. The outbreak also opened up a new market with the demand for products to protect yourself from the fast-spreading virus. We saw this as a great challenge to take on by applying our technique of 3D printing.

Part of the solution, not the problem 

Although it is uncertain how long the virus is able to survive on a surface like a doorknob, it is believed to stay there for multiple hours. Hygienic Hooks help you avoid touching doorknobs and other objects in order to stay safe and keep you from getting in contact with the virus. These hooks allow you to open doors and push elevator buttons without touching the actual surface, usually, they are made out of metal or virgin plastics. The team of vanPlestik decided to take the concept of the Hygienic Hook to the next level by producing a recycled version that is fast to produce but still fulfills the purpose of avoiding infection.

A smart technique behind a simple design 

We’ve spent years developing our designs and working on our printers in order to make sure that we produce robust furniture pieces. Our normal process involves making sure that all of our printers melt layer upon layer in order for it to stick together, resulting in a stable object. With these Hygienic Hooks our production process had to be changed again and we basically wanted to achieve the exact opposite. By applying our 3D printing technique, we are able to print these hooks in layers of which we can then ‘peel off’ multiple hooks. In this case, the technique has become very useful and allows us to create one big print, which results in potentially hundreds of these protective hooks. With this new and inventive technique of peeling off layers, we can now work on a semi mass production level by delivering a fast solution, saving energy by using recycled plastic, and helping the plastic recycling problem in the process.
Conventional plastic production techniques require a more complicated and therefore longer production process to produce a high quantity of objects. Compared to the most common used process, our technique enables us to go from idea to full-on production in just days, which saves us time and allows us to work independently. With our design, we can help everyone to stay safe and still stay true to working with 100% recyclable plastic.

Wouldn’t it be great if a tool for a health crisis that spread globally also supports the solution of another worldwide problem; the pollution of plastic waste?

Internship: Hands-on 3D Printer & Product designer

vanPlestik is looking for an ambitious designer who wants to contribute to our mission

About the internship

This internship is a combination of learning to work with our large 3D printers and designing your own product that you will produce yourself. The brief for the product is very open, so you will be able to fully use your creativity! We will teach you all about different types of plastics, melting temperatures and how to print the most beautiful designs with our large 3D printers. Meanwhile, you will work on designing your own product. We will train you to use Rhino software to convert your design into a code for the 3D printers, so that you are able to print a prototype of your own product at the end of the internship.

About vanPlestik: recycling plastic into beautiful products

We are a young company with a mission: creating beautiful circular products, raise awareness of the plastic problem and safe as much plastic as possible from incineration. We developed and build a 3D printer that uses plastic waste as a raw material. With our printers, we can locally recycle plastic into unique, high quality and affordable objects such as chairs, tables and flowerpots. We work with like minded companies such as HEMA, IKEA and Fairphone, and are looking forward to a few exciting projects in the coming months! 

You will be working in a small but ambitious team, and will be challenged to truly contribute to the company. We have a very open and relaxed studio environment, and we enjoy a healthy lunch together every day.


Do you want to contribute to our mission, and learn everything there is to know about 3D printing, and design and produce your own product? Send a message to!

Why we can recycle plastic that would otherwise go to waste

We turn your plastic waste into high-quality furniture. Even if the plastic is not of the perfect quality or has a small contamination. This way, we save plastic that would otherwise go to waste. An example is our recent collaboration with Fairphone. During this project, we converted broken phone cases into a series of functional objects. The Delta is one of those objects. We designed it in collaboration with Studio Voronoi. The Delta is a multifunctional piece of furniture that can be used both as a stool and as a side table.

Why we can recycle plastic that would go to waste otherwise

Nowadays, more and more people separate their plastic waste. Unfortunately, only a very small percentage of that plastic waste is recycled. Partly because of various complications that appear during the recycling process. Contamination of the plastic, for instance. Our 3D printer offers a solution to this problem. Due to the size of our 3D printer, we can print large objects. The large scale enables us to recycle plastic that would otherwise go to waste. For us, a small contamination in the plastic is no issue.

This is precisely the reason why Fairphone ended up at vanPlestik. The company had inquired about recycling their covers in various places. However, the metal logo that each case is provided with, always proved to be a problem. Fortunately, we did succeed in recycling the covers. It resulted in a series of functional objects. The origin of these new products is still clearly visible. The covers have taken on a completely different shape, but the recognizable colors have remained the same. 

Why we can recycle plastic that would go to waste otherwise

Back to where it all started, the objects have found a place at the Fairphone headquarters in Amsterdam. The fact that the company now has new objects from their own waste, ensures added value. In short: the circle is complete.

Want to get your hands on a Delta? Head over to our webshop.

This is what makes every Wavy Table unique

Just as no wave in the ocean is the same, every Wavy Table is unique in it’s shape. This side table made of packaging material, is created with a special technique. The Wavy Table is a so-called parametric design. It offers us the possibility to digitally adjust the design before printing. Sounds complicated? Let us take you through the process.

This is what makes every Wavy Table unique

In an age of mass production, consumers seek something unique for their homes. The Wavy Table makes this possible in a very efficient way. Unlike various recycling methods, the start-up costs for a customized design are low. We can digitally adjust the parametric design to your wishes. Our 3D models are programmed with adaptable sliders. Every time we produce, we adjust the sliders. As a result, the 3D model changes and a different design is exported. In other words, no Wavy Table is the same.

Not only is every Wavy Table unique, the design is completely circular. For example, let’s say after a number of years you’re fed up with your Wavy Table. No problem. We can get you a new design, using the same material. Simply return the Wavy Table to our workshop. From here, we reshred the material and print a brand new piece of furniture. 

Want your own unique Wavy table? Click here to go to our webshop

Job opening: content creator / media & communication intern

vanPlestik is looking for an enthusiastic content creator / media & communication intern with a talent for photography.

During this internship you will work on external communication for various vanPlestik projects, in text as well as image. In a short period of time you will learn all about working in a small but ambitious company. You will experience at first hand how our products and projects are developed, while getting a lot of responsibility as well as the necessary guidance. You will be working in a dynamic, small and close team.


Are a star in communicating and know how to convert an idea into clear communication. You can write inviting and fluent texts and you have experience in creating images / photography / graphic designs. You are responsible for the communications of vanPlestik and for setting up social media activities. You help create, set up and implement (online) marketing & promotional activities. In addition, you assist with the preparation of workshops and events and support the team where necessary with daily activities.

You contribute to:

  • Awareness
  • Social media / content creation
  • Newsletter / flyers
  • Website updates
  • Events
  • Presentations

Job requirements:

  • You are studying / have have a degree in the field of communication, marketing and / or digital media
  • You are a strong communicator (in speaking as well as writing)
  • You have experience with photography, preferably product photography
  • Talent for visual media
  • You have basic skills in Microsoft Office and preferably Adobe
  • You like to take action and you have a proactive attitude
  • You have an interest in (plastic) recycling


Plastic waste causes major problems for people and nature worldwide. Fortunately, more and more attention is being paid to the separate and collection of plastic waste. However, far too little of this waste is turned into new products. vanPlestik has developed and built a 3D printer that uses plastic waste as a raw material. With this, we make plastic recycling possible locally. We convert plastic waste on demand into unique, high-quality and affordable objects – such as furniture and parts for the local industry. We are a young company with a mission: to develop beautiful circular products, make people aware of the plastic waste problem and save as much plastic waste as possible from the incinerator. vanPlestik is based in Amsterdam and collaborates with companies such as Brewery de Prael, Awakenings, Hema, Ikea and the Municipality of Amsterdam.

Do you want to contribute to our mission? Please contact Send a short motivation, CV and portfolio and let us know when you want to start the internship. Ask? Call Roos on 06-30064962.

HEMA is taking steps towards zero waste

Recently we proudly presented our new collaboration partner: HEMA. This retailer has great ambitions in the field of sustainability. Earlier this year, HEMA announced to ban all single use plastics from their stores from 2020 onwards. How come sustainability is such an important topic for the company? And what can we expect in the future? Innovation manager Fabeel Butt provided us some inside info.

First of all: how did sustainability become such an important topic for you personally? And how did that guide you on your career path?

It all started during my bachelors in International Business. I did a minor in South Korea, where I followed several courses on globalization. I noticed how unfair the trade chains are divided and I wanted to do more research on that topic. That’s how I ended up at Fair-trade. After my internship, I was offered a job there and worked for the company for five years. As business development manager I worked with partners such as Tony’s Chocolonely and Ben & Jerry’s. 

At a certain point I realized I was interested to find out how I could make an impact from within a brand or retailer. As I would be in a position to contribute to strategy and policy. I did this at supermarket chain Lidl for a short period of time. Soon afterwards, I started working for HEMA, and have been working here for almost three years.

What is the best thing about working for HEMA?

HEMA has a young, dynamic team. Working here offers a lot of possibilities and taking initiative is appreciated. In addition to the set goals there’s room for me to develop new projects like this one. Our collaboration with Too Good To Go, the app that aims to prevent food waste, is another example. 

HEMA announcing their collaboration with Too Good To Go
(Image via

You recently changed roles within HEMA. What’s the difference between being Sustainability manager and Innovation manager?

As Sustainability manager I was responsible for the policy and implementation of raw materials. In my current role, I am researching new business models. This involves answering questions. For instance: what would the customers of the future want? And how can we anticipate and respond to this? Many of these innovations have common ground with sustainability. Therefore, the two meet within the Innovation and Sustainability team.

What does a typical day look like for you?

In the innovation department, we are currently working with a ‘core team’. It’s a multidisciplinary team of colleagues (including experts in the field of digital innovation, new services and sustainability) and a third party. The core team is responsible for validating new concepts with our target audience, and bringing the pilot to a successful conclusion. We are currently working on setting up a service for young parents. Have a look on to find out more. 

Why is sustainability such an important topic for HEMA?

As a retailer, we have a certain responsibility with regard to sourcing our products. We want to know where our products come from and from what materials they are made of. In addition, we receive more and more questions from our customers on this topic.  Take our use of plastic, for example. A lot of customers are sharing their concerns with us. I think we should have the right answers to their questions.


Reusable straws
(image via the HEMA instagram)

HEMA has recently announced that it will replace all its disposable plastic products with more sustainable alternatives. Quite a drastic decision. How did this come about?

Firstly, it will be obligated by law from 2021. However, we felt that it would be feasible to make a move earlier. Ambitious as we are, we decided to be one year ahead of legislation. We’ve set a target for nine assortment groups. At the moment, we are still on track to achieve that goal.

Why are HEMA and vanPlestik a good match?

”We both think in terms of possibilities instead of limitations. vanPlestik is a frontrunner when it comes to circularity and demonstrating that waste can serve as a valuable raw material for a new product.”

vanPlestik has a good business sense and contributed in setting up a business case that works for both parties. It provides vanPlestik a good learning process that is cost-effective at the same time. Furthermore, it offers us an affordable alternative to conventional solutions.

Can you tell us something more about how our collaboration came about?

One of my ambitions was to turn the HEMA Support Office into a zero waste office. At the moment we are not separating the waste well enough. Together with vanPlestik we have found a solution to this problem. The next step is to change the mindset of my colleagues. 

Hema Support Office (image via

What are HEMA’s plans for sustainability for the rest of 2019?

This summer we will introduce a number of products made of recycled plastic. In addition, there will be several launches in the field of food, such as vegan options. Besides that, we’re going to make our packaging more sustainable. It will increasingly be made of recycled plastic instead of conventional plastic.

If you may dream, what will HEMA look like in 10 years (in terms of sustainability)?

In ten years we have made big steps in the field of circularity and we will have progressed in making our products more sustainable. At the moment; products are being made, used and subsequently not recycled. In this process, material is lost. In the future, we will recycle more and more raw materials from the products we sell. Ideally we should have a minimal impact on the climate and can ultimately make a positive change to society and the environment. 

Curious what our collaboration with HEMA will look like exactly? Keep an eye on our social media to stay up to date! 

The power of one

The power of one

Often people think of environmental issues as too big to be able to make a difference as an individual. Artist Peter Smith is on a mission to change this mindset. We meet him in his workshop, where he tells us all about the philosophy behind his work: ‘the power of one’.

The World of Litter

Strangely enough, nobody saw plastic waste as an environmental issue before the year of 2012. But Peter Smith did. To raise awareness on this issue and “to enter the ports of the media like Odysseus once entered the ports of Troy”, he created an artwork in the shape of a globe, made of litter. It was a great success. The ‘World of litter’ generated 10 million media impressions and traveled through other cities in the Netherlands subsequently.

No act is too small to make a difference

For many organisations in the Netherlands, the ‘World of Litter‘ played a role in the process of acknowledging that plastic waste is a big issue for the environment. But that wasn’t enough. To really make a change in people’s mindset, Peter Smith dived into the philosophy behind the problem. “The issue is that many people believe their input is too small to make a difference. To me, the complete opposite is true. Like the flap of a butterfly’s wings, a small act can cause a hurricane of change. That’s why the logo of our foundation KLEAN is a butterfly with somewhat a hurricane inside.”

Minor effort, major effect

Picking up one piece of litter is a minor effort, but if everyone would do it – the effect would be major. Peter Smith even calculated that if 1 out of 4 people in the Netherlands pick up just one piece of litter a day, the litter problem seized to exist. That’s why Peter Smith asked people to pick up just one plastic bottle and send it to his workshop. With this, he received 100.000 littered bottles – a total of 2500 kilos of plastic. Smith will transform this amount of litter into an art piece:

“Again, it will be a Trojan Horse but this time a secret army will be hidden inside. The army consists of children who we will inform before hand on the story behind the statue. We provide them with enough ammunition in the form of arguments why it is important to pick up just one piece of litter every day. The most important argument will be: You do it out of love for your children.The idea is that the artwork will travel though the Netherlands, making a stop in every big city.”

The goal

The artwork will have the shape of a mother breastfeeding her baby to make people aware of the fact that plastic waste ends up in our food chain. The goal of the artwork is to change a mindset that not only causes the plastic waste problem but also affects the entire quality of life on our planet:

“It’s difficult to recapture the CO2 emissions of your neighbouror to ensure that your neighbour will eat lessmeat. But it’s very easy to clean up one piece of litter that someone else has dropped. If only 25%of the Dutchwould do so, we would save about 250 million Euro – the amount we currently spend on civil servants cleaning up litter. However, the most important thing for me is that people realise that their small actions do have an impact. That’s what I call the Power of One.”

The biggest 3D printed statue in the world

Peter Smith’s art piece won’t be just an art piece, it will be the biggest 3D printed statue in the world. Guess who’s 3D printing this piece? Yep, we are! About a year ago, we started to print the first pieces. The Plastic Madonna is going to be 12 meters long, so we are printing it in separate parts. We started with the feet, pictured above. Once all the pieces are connected, the Plastic Madonna will travel though the Netherlands, stopping in the biggest cities. In every city, Smith will organise lectures and events. Want to be a part of this project? Check the website.

3D printing a better future together

3D printing a better future together

We love to join forces with likeminded companies. This time we teamed up with sustainable product design studio, Better Future Factory. Alike us, they specialised in recycling waste and turning it into new products. Together, we created a series of objects for AVR – a company that converts residual waste.

The Better Future Factory is well known for their product New Marble – tiles with a marble look made from recycled plastic bottles. In the very same year, they launched the packaging design for sustainable perfume RUIK. Among their product range are also chopsticks created from plastic collected from the ocean and many more innovative projects. To learn more about their work, check the website.

Better Future Factory from PET bottles to plastic sheet

From design to 3D printed product

This project kicked off at the head quarters of the Better Future Factory, where the designs where made. Afterwards, we brought the designs to life using our 3D printer. The several objects we created will have a place in a showroom at AVR, surrounded by objects created by other circular designers. AVR is specialised in converting residual waste into energy and raw materials for households and businesses.

Table made from plastic bottles

Drawing inspiration from it’s resource material, one of the objects is a table which contains the shape of many plastic bottles and the tabletop is made from recycled glass. Among the objects where also a laptop stand, a lectern, and several stools. The stools carry a special story, as the top is created by design studio PLANQ. As part of their project Rezign, they turned old pairs jeans into a new material. Both comfy and circular – what else could we wish for?

To sum it all up: a successful collaboration of which we hope many more will follow. Keep an eye on these fellow young pioneers!