Jon Super / AP
CARBIS BAY, England – Security is tight in the English county of Cornwall as President Biden and other leaders of the group of seven – seven of the world’s richest countries – prepare to meet for a weekend meeting starting Friday.
But if you want to see a first-hand glimpse of Biden, Germany’s Angela Merkel or the other powerful politicians, your best choice may be a two-story sculpture that replicates their resemblance to electronic waste in the hills overlooking the resort where they meet.
The sculpture, which attracts large crowds, is arranged like Mount Rushmore – but with the G-7 leaders instead of American presidents.
The sculptors, artists Joe Rush and Alex Wreckage, have called it “Mount Recyclemore.” Rush says he hopes leaders have seen it on their flights to Cornwall and that it encourages them to tackle the world’s avalanche of e-waste.
“The message is that we need to find a way to deal with this electrical waste that we produce because we do not have ways to repair it and we do not have ways to get rid of it,” says Rush.
Jon Super / AP
The world produces about 53 million tonnes of e-waste annually, and the amount is expected to double by 2050, according to the UN Institute for Education and Research and the International Telecommunication Union.
Adam Minter, author of Junkyard Planet: Travel in Billion-Dollar Waste Trade says that most people in the developed world associate e-waste with unsafe practices in developing countries.
But he says Mount Recyclemore “forces viewers to view e-waste as something that is local, immediate and largely theirs. Tackling e-waste issues will in part require consumers in developed countries to tell manufacturers to produce more durable and repairable devices. This is a starting point for discussion. “
The sculpture, which took 12 people to build in six weeks, resembles a remarkable resemblance to the world leaders it depicts. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s famously uncomfortable hair includes a tangle of old telephone receivers hanging by their wires. The city’s skin is a blanket of green circles, and his lips are made of rows of the violent backs of Samsung and Apple smartphones.
Joanie Willett, who teaches politics at the University of Exeter in Cornwall, says she thinks the most thought-provoking feature is the printed circuit boards that make up Biden’s face.
“Because these are things we don’t even see,” she says. “It’s completely invisible and we do not think when we use things.”
The sculpture elicited many comments about the environment among the many people who gathered there when dusk arrived Friday night. There were also meta-moments when people – without any apparent sense of irony – used their smartphones to shoot images of sculptures made with old smartphones.
The installation is not only a striking work of art and environmental activism, but it is also a smart piece of marketing. It was sponsored by musicMagpie, a British company that buys old electronics and renovates them for resale and its American brand, Decluttr.
Liam Howley, the company’s marketing manager, says the company buys around 1,500 technology products and 40,000 media items – including old CDs and DVDs – every day in the UK – and its materials were used to create Mount Recyclemore.
“We try to raise awareness, make sure people know about it, can act on it, and encourage better behavior to renovate, reuse, reuse,” Howley says.