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Sierra Daily

Jul 26, 2011

Out Of Sight, But No Longer Out Of Mind

Ewaste image C
While you’re eagerly awaiting the arrival of the iPad 3 so that you can finally chuck your so-last-spring iPad 2, consider what happens to the 3 million tons of electronic waste that Americans dispose of every year. That was the goal of BackTalk, a project of MIT’s SENSEable City Lab, now on display at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The project tracked outdated computers sent for reuse around the world (with some heartwarming results) and cell phones, batteries, and printer cartridges shipped off for recycling (with distressing results).

The project's computer visualizations raise questions about the usefulness of electronics recycling. “Unlike other sorts of recycling, which have become relatively streamlined, the visualization shows pieces of e-waste bopping back and forth across the country, having one component recycled in the Midwest and another recycled on the West coast, and so on,” lab director Carlo Ratti told the New York Times. “There is gross inefficiency here.”

—Reed McManus

Image: Recorded trajectories of cell phones, batteries, and printer cartridges discarded in Seattle, Washington. BackTalk

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