Scaling The Mountain Of Electronic Waste

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The problem of e-waste is getting bigger and bigger, with dire consequences for the environment. Could a sculpture in Cornwall hold the key to governmental change?

At the 2021 G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, in plain view of the thousands of politicians, advisors, diplomats, reporters, security personnel and curious locals, stands Mount Recyclemore. As the name suggests, it resembles Mount Rushmore, but instead of the faces of four American presidents carved into granite, Mount Recyclemore is a sculpture of the seven G7 leaders made from 20,000 discarded digital devices.

While not on the same scale as Mount Rushmore (each of the seven heads is three metres tall), the Cornish sculpture has no less of an impact. Viewed from a distance it looks like a series of ghoulish faces made of sheet metal, but get closer and the extent of the problem becomes apparent. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, monitors, computers, keyboards, home appliances, and thousands of circuit boards, all unable to be recycled and destined to end up in landfill.

Built to highlight the damage caused by the disposal of digital devices, Mount Recyclemore was commissioned by musicMagpie, a tech resale website. Research by the company found that around 79% of the British population does not know what electronic waste (or e-waste) is, while 31% of Britons were unsure or did not believe that e-waste can harm the environment.

“E-waste is a growing problem worldwide and its impact on the environment is significant,” said Steve Oliver, musicMagpie’s founder and chief executive. “If sent to landfills, e-waste can leak harmful chemicals into the soil and water, or if incinerated, fumes release chemicals into the air, contributing to global warming.”

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