E-waste is the single fastest growing municipal waste stream in the United States, jumping 5% in a single year between 2007 and 2008. Most electronic devices contain hazardous materials that are detrimental to the environment when not properly disposed of, and in addition to environmental hazards, discarding electronics means losing valuable materials and components that could be re-purposed. $16 billion in gold and $5 billion in silver: a total of $21 billion -- equal to the GDP of El Salvador -- is locked away annually in e-products. In 2010, 152 million cellphones were discarded in the United States alone, and of that number only about 10% of the phones were recycled. Every million cellphones contains approximately 50 lbs of gold, 550 lbs of Silver, 20 lbs of Palladium and, 20,000 lbs of Copper. We want to take some of this data and use it to create wearable jewelry that highlights the value of what is being thrown away along with our electronics.
In 2011 1.59 BILLION cell phones were purchased worldwide, which means 2.9 billion dollars worth of precious metals were locked away and statistically are most likely to end up in a landfill in 18 months.
When we think about the cost, energy, and environmental impact that mining these precious metals cost, it's deeply disturbing to realize that in the end they're simply being thrown away.
We're looking into precious metals, potentially 3D printing directly with sterling silver or plated steel through shapeways, or printing our models in plastic and then using lost wax casting to cast our objects in one of the precious metals found in cellphones: Gold, Silver, Palladium, and Copper. Also fabrication a display box, potentially in plastic, or laser cut wood.
I'm researching data sets about a couple of different sectors of the waste stream in the United States. I'm currently focusing on Construction and Demolition waste (C&D) and post consumer electronics waste (both considered part of MSW - municipal solid waste). C&D waste currently makes up slightly more than a third of the total waste that winds up in landfills and is a major contributor to C02 and methane emissions. Many of us here at ITP are active parts of the maker movement, and I think it's important that as people build they keep in mind the lifespan of their materials and attempt to make responsible decisions in their construction. By creating functional tools that include pertinent information about C&D, the user has a subtle reminder every day. Potential combinations of function and information include etching/carving negative space to simulate statistics/graphs on the body of saws and hammers; sculptural tool boxes and wraps; and pie-chart casing for tape measures. In looking at post consumer electronics, a statistic I found interesting had to do with the precious materials that are possible to reclaim from many consumer electronics. One million discarded cellphones contains 50 lbs of gold, 550 lb of silver, 20 lb of palladium, and 20,000 lb of copper. Some concepts for data objects includes jewelry of these precious materials, cellphone cases with engraved maps of cellphone recycling sites, or sculptural cellphone charging bases or laptop cases.