Chinese artist sheds light on electronic waste

China 24

Chinese artist sheds light on electronic waste

More than five billion people around the world use cellphones. But when the mobile devices are no longer functional, they get dumped and become an environmental threat. One Beijing artist is trying to draw attention to this growing problem.

CGTN’s Frances Kuo explains.

At first glance, it might look like a typical mall kiosk selling cellphones. But when customers look closer, they realize it’s something else entirely.

“I wanted to make an artistic work related to devices,” said artist Shen Bolun. 

Bolun says he wanted to draw attention to electronic waste and its environmental impact on the world.

Shen’s tower is made up of 500 discarded phones.

“Electronic waste actually contains a lot of metals that have economic value,” said Jiang Zhoushan, Project Manager of international environmental group Greenpeace.  “If these metals are recycled, we can reduce mining and damaging the environment.”

Greenpeace estimates that by 2020, China’s electronic waste will reach more than 15 million tons. Old phones typically end up in landfills, seeping toxic chemicals into the ground.

“I didn’t realize cellphones could be recycled and used again,” said Li Jiaxing, who donated a phone. “After seeing this tower, I decided to donate my old cellphone here to make use of its remaining value.”

Tech experts say people should consider other uses before tossing phones away, like repurposing them as an alarm clock or security cameras.

The 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics Organizing Committee has another idea.

It collected five million used phones and will use their gold, silver and copper components to make all the Games’ medals.

But environmental activists realize not everyone is on board with phone recycling.

“People are afraid of exposure of privacy, and they are not very familiar with standard recycling channels, which are the reasons why the recycling rate is not very high,” Peng Yuan, a student volunteer.

That’s why Greenpeace says artwork like this helps spread the word in hopes this call won’t go unanswered.

Carl Brown discusses electronic waste and ways to combat it

CGTN’s Elaine Reyes talks with Carl Brown, President of E-Waste Experts, about the threat of electronic waste.