Every single day, 142,000 computers are thrown away in the United States
At least, that was the case in 2010. Electronic waste is the fastest growing municipal waste stream in the world. Today, that number is far higher and the only way to alleviate the situation is getting people to talk more about it.
Unfortunately, e-waste doesn’t make for very interesting dinner conversation. I wanted to change that.
All I needed was access to a lifetime of electronic waste and a copper scrap recycling center.
At SXSW in 2017, I learned that Dell had the world’s largest global recycling program. They were hosting a series of impact-focused sessions to talk about how artists and individuals were collaborating with them to help reduce waste and encourage recycling.
As someone dedicated to collaborating with responsible corporations having a positive social impact, I was immediately interested to learn more.
I chased down Sarah Gilliam from their Corporate Social Responsibility team in search for more information. She explained to me how they offer free e-waste recycling in almost 80 different countries, but that their biggest challenge was getting more people to recycle.
After all, how do you convince people that recycling e-waste can be cool?
Perhaps the first step was to show how past electronics had the potential to power future devices.
Dell found a way, called the “Closed Loop Recycling Process“, where they developed the ability to salvage plastics and gold from old electronics to be recycled into new computer parts – essentially using the past to power the future. I decided to use that as a starting point.
We were given 4100 lbs of e-waste for this project, the approximate amount of e-waste an American might use over their lifetime.
Dell reached out to Wistron GreenTech, one of their recycling partners in Dallas, and asked them if we could borrow a room and a couple bins of e-waste collected by their recycling program.
50 volunteers came over the course of 10 days to help us sort through all the materials that we borrowed.
We found our volunteers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Some, drove from as far as 12 hours away to be a part of the project, working over 10 hours a day… including evenings and weekends!
Our structures were built with simple tools, paint and wood.
Our volunteers would help to either cut, paint, sort or screw in pieces of electronic waste. One of the most tedious structures to build was our portal, where each arch would take up to 6 hours to decorate with valuable circuit boards.
The structures were built to work from only one angle
With limited time and budget, David Jeter – our master builder – decided to use forced perspective to make our structures look far longer and deeper than they actually were. From the sides, you can see how incomplete the structure actually is.
Colorful document folders taped onto flashes brought by our photography volunteers were used to light our set.
Lighting was improvised using flashes that I brought, along with whatever flashes, clamps and stands the volunteers brought. We placed the most powerful flash we had, a Broncolor Move with an orange gel, bouncing off the back of the white wall as our main flash.
We built patterns on the ground using chalk, rope and a yardstick
I met Andreas a sand artist on the beach a few years back. Though I knew what I wanted to create, I didn’t know how – so I sent him my concept doodle and asked him how to make it. Within the hour he told me how: Concentric circles around a single point, followed by lines at evenly spaced angles, skipping every second intersection.
Using a staple gun, we built a wall of peripherals – Mice, Adapters, and Wires
Allison Blue, Henna artist by trade, but bodypainter for this project helped us design geometric patterns out of the mess of cables that we were given.
Bodypainting and makeup took over 8 hours in the unheated warehouse
Clara Cloutier, our model had to stay near motionless the entire time as Bodypainter Allison Blue and Makeup Artist Tamsen Rae transformed her into a futuristic cyborg.
With a leaf blower borrowed from Home Depot, we were able to add movement to the image.
Our smallest volunteer, Tricia, was able to hide from the camera by crouching down low behind Clara.
The final detail, was to tape a flash onto a volunteer’s drone to get the light into the perfect position
Although we had never tried to fly a drone with a payload before, Mital, one of the volunteers encouraged us to give it a shot anyways. Adam, our videographer, was the only one of us confident enough to give it a shot.
Our sets lasted only one day before being put back into Dell’s recycling machine.
It took only 4 hours to clean up 10 days of hard work – but the images will hopefully live on forever and empower every individual to tell their friends and family to Rethink electronic waste, Recycle them responsibly, so that responsible companies like Dell can Revive them as brand new computer parts.
Please help us spread the word. Your voice can make the difference!
PS. We’re giving away postcards to those that donate their electronic waste. Learn more here: www.RethinkAndRecycle.com
PPS. We’re also giving away 3 HUGE 24×36″ metallic prints to lucky winners who help us share our video!