Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sophie Gerrard Documents E-waste in India

This blog does not traffic in social commentary. I will be the first to admit that. This blog traffics in things that I think look cool, and are vaguely related to art.

However, I would like to bring the room (blog) down for a minute. Photographer Sophie Gerrard has an arresting series documenting the horrific effect of e-waste on India's environment and people. Here is a brief explanation from her website:

"Each year, thousands of tons of old computers, mobile phones, batteries, cables, old cameras and other e-waste are dumped in landfill or burned. Thousands more are shipped, illegally, from Europe, the UK and the USA to India and other developing countries for ‘recycling’. Some is sent as scrap, some as charity donations.

India has become one of the world’s largest dumping grounds for e-waste. E-waste is highly toxic. It contains lead, cadmium, mercury, tin, gold, copper, PVC and brominated, chlorinated and phosphorus based flame retardants. Many of these heavy metals and contaminants are extremely harmful to humans as well as to animals and plants."

The images are a stark contrast to the way we usually think about technology, as a clean, cultured benefit to our lives. Just like many social advances, we ignore the long-term implications of the mass production of machines, and then are faced with the impossibility of safetly disposing of what we've created.

I've included a few pictures below, but I encourage you to visit the website and see the entire series. I found the images and captions truly heartbreaking.

Mother boards are treated with hydrochloric acid to recover copper. The worthless plastic is discarded as scrap, resulting in the severe contamination of the workplace and adjacent environment with toxic metals.

Studies carried out in Delhi and Chennai found extremely high levels of toxins in workshop dust, storage rooms, soils, water courses and river sediment in areas where e-waste recycling was taking place.

The environmental implications of illegal e-waste recycling are severe. The release of toxic metals into the ground, air and water causes massive damage to human and aquatic life

Sophie Gerrard Photography - E-wasteland
Via Boingboing

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