Computer bugs highlight e-waste problems | Global Ideas | DW | 13.05.2015
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Global Ideas

Computer bugs highlight e-waste problems

UK-based artist Julie Alice Chappell makes intricate insect sculptures to highlight the global electronic waste problem. Check out our gallery of these beautiful bugs.

Insects, creepy-crawlies, bugs: These tiny creatures don't inspire a positive reaction from most. But UK-based artist Julie Alice Chappell's miniature insect sculptures are different. Made from discarded electronics, the bugs are beautiful and are intended to highlight our waste problems too.

A self-described "huge fan of insects," Chappell began making the sculptures four years ago while studying fine arts at Portsmouth University when she received her first box of discarded electronic parts. The wires and colors in the circuit board components, resistors and capacitors reminded her of bugs' colorful bodies, spindly legs and antennae.

Chappell says she takes inspiration for her designs by combining old and new techniques - using entomological illustrations in old reference books, drawing and painting, digital design and incorporating patterns found in nature and mathematics.

"The work is very labor intensive and each piece takes a long time," the artist told Global Ideas.

But Chappell also wants the sculptures to highlight the "dangers of electronic waste in our natural environments" and our throw-away culture.

"The recycled bits of cultural refuse that interweave throughout the pieces represent a direct encounter with the excesses of modern living highlighting the dangers of planned obsolescence and e-waste," said Chappell.

Dangers of e-waste

Electronic or e-waste hit a record 41.8 million tons in 2014 and is growing, according to a recent United Nations University report. The bulk of that waste was discarded kitchen, laundry and bathroom items like microwaves and washing machines but mobile phones and computers featured prominently too.

Some e-waste is recycled but much of it ends up in landfill or incinerators where toxic metals like mercury, lead and cadmium leak into the ground and air, impacting on human health and the environment.

And while, major economies such as China, Japan, the US and Germany are the worse offenders in producing such waste, a percentage of it ends up in developing nations without the capacity or equipment to deal with it soundly.

"Global trading of electronics and substandard recycling in developing countries has led to environmental catastrophes in places like Guiyu, China andAgbogbloshie, Ghana, to name two examples," according to the report.

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