Reduce, reuse and repair e-waste

The sculpture A Natural History of Digital Rubbish is a reflection of the Faculty of Information Technology’s commitment to sustainability and combating climate change – one of our age’s three greatest challenges identified by Monash University’s Impact 2030 statement.

The impact on our planet

Digital rubbish, also known as electronic waste – or e-waste – encompasses discarded items that have a power cord, plug or battery. Think of mobile phones, television sets, computers and cameras.

E-waste is responsible for 70% of the toxic chemicals found in landfills, such as lead, cadmium and mercury. And unfortunately, most recycled e-waste ends up in illegal dumping sites. When exposed to heat, these chemicals seep into the soil, water and air, harming our environment and compromising the health of nearby communities and wildlife.

It’s predicted that e-waste will more than double by 2050. The most efficient way of reducing e-waste is to reuse what we already have.

What can I do?

If you work with hardware or software regularly, we encourage you to consider the following questions:

  • What are some ways you might be contributing to e-waste?
  • Can you do the same quality of work using less computing power?
  • Might you repurpose another device to build what you need?
  • What will you commit to doing from today onwards?

Responsible e-waste disposal

The closest e-waste drop-off site to Monash University is the Waste Transfer Station at 380 Ferntree Gully Road, Notting Hill. Visit its website for more information on opening hours and what materials it accepts.

Otherwise, enter your postcode into RecyclingNearYou to discover your closest e-waste drop-off site.

The three Rs that are better than recycling

A Natural History of Digital Rubbish

This sculpture was created by artist and Monash University alumni Dr Michael Bullock to increase the visibility of the e-waste crisis.

Dr Bullock drew inspiration from the observations of 20th century philosopher Walter Benjamin on obsolescence – a result of modernisation and its relentless technological advancement, comparing it to a period of ‘natural history’.

Building on this observation, Dr Bullock asserts that the comparison is even clearer with our current digital age. Electronic gadgets are designed with a lack of longevity, resulting in fast-tracked obsolescence and a global generation of e-waste in the hundreds of millions of tonnes each year.

Drawing on geology, palaeontology and archaeology, Dr Bullock’s artwork resembles a cross-section of stromatolite: layers and layers of sediment solidified over centuries to create a new natural formation. However rather than naturally occurring matter, it is e-waste – including mobile phones, chargers and mice – that make up the “stromatolite”.

The messaging extends to the development of the artwork, where a mixture of traditional sculptural languages of casting and sculptural relief, along with newer techniques of digital scanning and fabrication were used.

A Natural History of Digital Rubbish is a spectacular feat visualising the magnitude of the e-waste crisis and also offers a startling glimpse into the future of our world if we fail to address the issue now.

This project was funded by the Faculty of IT and commissioned by EcoFIT, the Faculty’s Green Impact team to increase visibility of the e-waste crisis and spark conversation among students. It was installed with support from Monash University of Museum of Art (MUMA) and Monash’s Buildings and Property Division.

Now that you’ve seen the sculpture, tell us what you think!

Share your thoughts

A Natural History of Digital Rubbish is located on the Ground Floor of the Woodside Building for Technology and Design, 20 Exhibition Walk, Clayton VIC 3800. For any enquiries regarding the sculpture, please contact the Faculty of IT Operations team.

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