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Investigating e-waste

By April 1, 2019July 1st, 2021ecology, sdg 12, sdg 13, sdg 15, sdg 9, technology

Precious metals in electronics present three problems: damage to the environment during extraction, the short life span of the devices themselves and not being properly recycled at the end of their life cycle. It’s estimated that by 2080, the largest mineral reserves will no longer be underground, but on the surface – in the form of ingots or as parts of building materials, appliances, furniture and devices.
Simone Farresin and Andrea Trimarchi of Studio Formafantasma conducted an ambitious survey on the recycling of electronic waste with their Ore Streams project – on display during Broken Nature at the Milan Triennale.

Cristina: This drawer is made with an old computer case. Did you know that electrical and electronic waste are the fastest-growing sector and only 30% of it is recycled. Working on the remaining 70% is very complex because the objects we are talking about are complex, as are their supply chains.

Simone Farresin: Dismantling the objects is fundamental, therefore a universal screw system would be very useful. Then, the color black, used for electrical cables, can’t be detected by the optical readers used to separate them. Simply changing the color would help identify them and recover the copper. It would also be fundamental to establish a labeling system that tells the user, when they buy electronics, how long the product will last. These objects are recycled but in a slightly more sophisticated way in our countries, while developing countries need color codes to help them detect the dangerous components so they don’t dismantle them manually and they’re recycled properly.

Cristina: Have you met keyplayers for your project along the entire supply chain? Where have you encountered the greatest resistance?

Andrea Trimarchi: I must say that one of the most complex things was actually getting in touch with the electronics manufacturers. We spoke with universities, producers, recycling companies, even people who deal with laws. They were available and welcomed us, while the manufacturers didn’t.

Cristina: Why aren’t they willing to be part of the solution?

Simone Farresin: Probably because right now it’s very complex to invest economic resources and really change things. They take baby steps which are used symbolically as an advertising strategy instead of showing real interest in recycling these products.

Cristina: You have a solution for the problem at hand, what is it?

Andrea Trimarchi: One of the most likely solutions would be to organize tables where the various players in the production chain, from electronics manufacturers to recyclers and also designers, meet to discuss these issues.

Cristina: It seems absurd, isn’t this already happening?

Andrea Trimarchi: Unfortunately not, even in the legislative sphere recyclers and producers are often brought together, but most of the time us designers, people who actually transform raw materials into objects, are not part of the conversation.

Cristina: Design can and, in this case, does have a political role, let’s be inspired. Occhio al futuro

On air 30-3-2019