[author’s note: as the semester progresses these posts will increasingly alternate between studio project specific topics and non sequiturs. Today’s topic is studio project specific.]
A few weeks back I briefly described e-waste (used electronics) and its international trade. A general pattern of shipments from developed western countries to the ‘global south’ was evident. More recent publications (from the same authors) update the data to show a drastic shift in where this ‘waste’ is coming from and where it is going. (Note that the author uses trade of “waste and scrap of primary batteries and electrical accumulators” as a proxy because no one as any substantial data on e-waste) Back in 1996 Indonesia was the largest importer, in 2012 more waste was heading from ‘developing’ countries to developed. That change could be explained by the adoption of the Basel Convention (1992, banning e-waste trade from rich countries to poor) and by a more recent trend of rich countries importing e-waste to process in large industrial facilities.
So what of “Best of 2 Worlds”? In design school we talk a lot about solutions and interventions being implemented in a ‘top down’ or ‘bottom up’ manner, that is either using established power structures like zoning/planning commissions or individual/decentralized decisions and actions. Best of 2 Worlds (B2W) tries to merge the top down structure of formal recycling, as defined by government agencies and regulators, with the bottom up structure of informal recycling. The intention is two fold, to combine the efficiency of both systems, and secondly to try to limit environmental damage cause by informal recycling.
One group in particular called E-WaRDD operates in Bangalore, India, and was started by a few informal recyclers with the help from NGOs and western organizations. They prep material, and ship it off to Belgium to get melted down to precious metals. Before and after below: