Stories from around the world.
We usually throw away things, be it electronic or non-electronic, because either we don't find any functional purpose anymore to it or we stop using it even if it is functional. It then takes up the trash journey from our trash bins to garbage collection systems, travels in garbage trucks and then to segregation centres.In places with recycling systems integrated, it goes to recycling companies and in the places without recycling systems, it ends up in a landfill. At the landfill, vulnerable communities scavenge through piles of wastes and trash, coping with hazardous smoke coming out of burning landfills and also exposing themselves to toxic wastes, so as to find things of monetary value. They sell it and earn some amount of money to survive yet another day. But in most recycling companies, trash is segregated further, monitored and recyclers try to get back what’s possible in a streamlined and mostly non-toxic and human way.
You can already see a pattern here that things continue to have value even if someone thinks it doesn't. When trying to manage wastes, we can deal with them in two ways.
First, prevent waste from being generated in the first place. Most of our systems are not circular and most of our trash ends up in the landfill. Most of the time, waste generated is equal to waste ending up in landfills. Hence prevention of wastes is one of the most sustainable ways to manage wastes.
Second, delay it from reaching the landfill, i.e., keep using it as long as possible in different ways so that a product can serve its lifetime better and not be used for some moments and throw away all that went into making it.
This is of course easier said than done, especially when we live in a world where the systems are not very sustainable, sustainable actions take more effort. But still, there are stories of hope and resilience. Examples are out there and we have collected some for you.
Several artists across the world have been using trashed items to create art installations that spread the message and awareness about trash, their effects, and evoke emotions that we would otherwise not feel. There have been large scale programs that have successfully recovered materials and minerals from e-wastes to create new things, thereby reducing the stress on Earth’s virgin resources and using what is already existing! Let’s go around the world, shall we?
Creativity has no limit and people bring out stories that have a cause and a purpose. Art pieces made out of trash are no different, but so much more powerful, because who would have thought one could admire trash too! Creating art out of waste is a good example of delaying wastes being sent to landfill. You are putting it to use, until you cannot use it anymore. Let’s check out some artists and how they extend their creativity.
Artist 1: Eliza Walter, UK
She founded LYLIE jewellery as a 24 year old in 2017. She is classically trained as a goldsmith in London's Hatton Garden, where she came across “e-mining”.
”If you were to mine 1 ton of the earth's ore, you would get a yield of >30g of gold. If you were to mine 1 ton of electronic waste, you would get a yield of 300g of gold”.
Lylie’s supports the "mining" of precious metals from discarded technology, as well as dental waste and clients’ unwanted scrap. You must check out the website to find beautiful jewellery that is cruelty free, including the stones used in them.
Website: https://lylies.com/collections/ - There is something for everyone here!
Artist 2: Nagasaka Mago, Japan
Mago is a 39 year old sustainable artist, who has found his meaning and purpose of life through creating art out of e-wastes and making use of the profits he makes to support sustainable activities in Ghana.
When he visited Ghana, he saw group of youngsters who were scavenging through burning landfills to find e-wastes of value. They had requested Mago to get them masks which will help them live longer. He partnered with a company and got them the masks: https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/backstories/1471/
Personal website : https://nagasakamago.art/about-me
Artist 3: Vishwanath Mallabadi Davangere, India
Vishwanath, a 60 year-old IT sector MNC executive, who turned into an eco-artist post retirement, has been working for more than 20 years, combining art, technology, and sustainability. He uses his art form to create awareness about environmental concerns of e-wastes.
He buys e-waste from scrap dealers and recyclers but says that he is selective in choosing the ‘e-waste’. He extracts copper, gold or multi-coloured wires, keyboards and computer components that are useful according to the texture, colour and forms.
The art pieces have been exhibited on several occasions and also finds home permanently in some of the sustainable public spaces, metro station and shopping malls in India!
A country’s contribution - When e-waste transformed into Olympic medals
Japan was committed to making the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the most environmentally friendly and sustainable Olympics ever organized. One of the most striking positive stories was that of e-mining precious metals from e-wastes to produce the medals that adorned the best athletes in the whole world!
A total of 78,985 tonnes of discarded devices were collected. Yellow donation boxes were placed in post offices and in street corners all over the country. Educational institutions and electronic retail stores were part of the huge collection drive as well. It indeed was a community or rather a country’s effort which proved to be so beautiful!
Almost 6.21 million mobile phones were part of the huge collection that also involved cameras, laptops and other e-wastes.
Japan recovered its goal of regaining 30.3kg of gold, 4,100kg of silver and 2,700kg of bronze!
A responsible manufacture’s story - Dell’s global e-waste recycling program and a collaboration with a team of artists
Dell has the world’s largest electronics takeback program, which operates across 83 countries and territories. Since 2007, They have recovered more than 2.5 billion pounds (1.1 billion kilograms) of used electronics and have been using them in their product lines, which is already saving them millions of dollars. They started recycling way back in 1996.
In order to bring attention to the amount of e-waste that an average human produces, Von Wong collaborated with Dell and one of their partner recycling companies to create a studio set for a contemporary photoshoot.
Dell provided Von Wong 4100 lbs of e-waste for the project, the approximate amount of e-waste an American might use over their lifetime and provided the space at the recycling facility itself, where 50 volunteers came over the course of 10 days to sort materials and set up the studio, which was dismantled and given back to the recycling company after the photoshoot was completed.
This is a perfect example of a circular model, where you prevent wastes from going to the landfill and find a use for it too! Moreover such collaborations are important in every field, together we can do more! Art has always amplified the cause! Watch the story here: https://youtu.be/R3fjsi_-ypo.
It is more than evident as to how when collaborations and the will to recycle and recover exists, ideas turn into reality. There are several stories such as the ones mentioned above, ranging from individual efforts to a complete nation’s collaboration and the ideas do not simply exist, but in fact are implemented and are executable. So, if you have any apprehensions about the whole concept of recycling or e-mining, well you know you don't need to hold on to that thought anymore.