and then the heartfelt joy when I read about people being innovative like this
follow the link to find out why
‘Picture This… Gold in Your Hands’
Green Week at UCLAN was busy – art students worked really hard through freezing conditions to complete their installation on my frame (see below). Students collected hundreds of used plastic carrier bags and employing different textile techniques created a design with an environmental message.
Rare earths? Firstly, the name is a misnomer as they are not rare, but abundant -just difficult, and therefore costly, to extract. Rare earths are highly valued as they provide essential material for all the electronic gadgets we prize: the laptop I am writing this blog on, the phone I have just used, the television I watched last night and so on.
Most rare earths sit in the lanthanide section of the Periodic Table, gradually gaining attention as more countries realise the potential and significance of these elements. The growth and prosperity of a nation partly rests on the key resources it has or can get access to either through leverage or money.
Between 2008 -11 China exported around 90% of its rare earths. In 2011 China reassessed its position, and understanding that the finite supply of these precious materials would put it in a vulnerable position if it ran out, now only ships out 50%. At the same time the USA resented China’s grip on the market and their spiralling charges, and reopened some of their mines.
The European strategy is to salvage rare earth metals and reuse them. This month I visited Recycling Lives in Preston (all photos here are taken on the visit), one of the leading companies in the recovery and recycling of electronic goods. Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) is the largest growing waste stream in the EU. Recycling Lives alone recycle 150-200,000 televisions every year. If the machines still work they are refurbished and sold on supporting the waste hierarchy of re-use. But all the redundant ‘fat’, plasma and LCD televisions are there alongside outmoded laptops and broken computers. It’s an amazing and startling sight: hundreds of televisions tumbling out of lorries, black and grey with the odd pink and green case vying for attention. Long benches of people systematically stripping the machines down to their constituent parts: working like machines on machines. Bales of grey and black plastic stacked high waiting to be sent to the polymer recycler for chipping, screen glass is crushed and recycled, circuit boards are graded and stored, metals are salvaged with copper, a prized treasure, being scrupulously saved.
Initially, this captures a wonderful scene of a modern nation sensibly managing its waste, and it is, but there is a dark side. Inside our favourite gadgets are dangerous materials that are difficult and expensive to safely dispose off. To handle this at Recycling Lives there are sealed areas in the warehouse that ‘manage’ the toxic substances present in all the electronic goods. Highly protected in specialist gear the workers remove and contain the hazardous materials such as phosphorus. It is then put into barrels and processed at a purpose built facility. To reduce both the level of hazardous waste and the costs incurred in safely handling it, it was agreed in Brussels only last month that LED bulbs should replace the phosphorus ones – LEDs do not contain mercury.
Each of us generates around 3.3 tonnes of WEEE in a lifetime and globally we create 50 million tonnes annually. The screens have captured both our attention and documented our lives and the aggregate of that engagement is visible in the huge piles of WEEE littered around the globe.
The issue of plastic carrier bag use is not as simple as it may seem. Information on this link clearly explains the impact of all shopping bags and that carbon footprinting isn’t just about end use, but also the resources of making the products and the distance from the producer.
The students at uclan chose to use plastic bags to make their picture inside the frame (see post 11 February 2013) as it is widely accepted they are a sign of our consumerist society – plus they are suitable material to work with in this particular project.
Today I installed a commission for University of Central Lancashire Green Week, entitled ‘Picture this… gold in their hands’. The work is a temporary, interactive public sculpture that harnesses the grandeur of the traditional gilt frame to highlight our consumption of plastics. Over the course of the week students will create a picture within the frame made from discarded plastic bags.
I was approached by the Green Team at uclan to design a sculpture that the students could not only work with on their own, to showcase their skills, but also to draw attention to environmental issues they were interested in.
This article is VERY interesting – I have a personal interest, not only from my deep love of trees, but as for three years I owned a wood pellet boiler. Originally, I was seduced by the notion that I was doing my bit to save the planet – when my old oil bolier finally imploded, I did not buy another one. So, I took out a huge loan and converted the system to pellets.
What they don’t tell you, and I found out at great cost, is that the boliers need a lot of attention and upkeep. They are temperamental, (only certain expensive pellets work well or the machine clogs up with dust – these special pellets were only available from a manufacturer 200 miles away so the haulage footprint was high), also the calorific value (the heat you get ) is low for the amount of fuel burnt, so you have to burn it high and all the time, and the maintenance is high in time and costs.
Sometimes being right is wrong – being green is difficult, particularly with regard to energy. My research into different fuels reveal they are all with complications and ultimately a price to pay for the standard of power we desire.
Does anyone have positive story to relate about wood pellet boilers?
Maybe after reading the attached article on the Climate Connections blog you have a view?
Lead is one of those stalwart materials that man has been using for thousands of years as evidenced from ancient remains in many parts of the world. The problem is that we all know, and have known for many years, that it is highly damaging to animal and human health, yet we remain seduced by its ductility, softness, malleability and resistance to corrosion. Lead is used widely in a myriad of applications, but especially in the construction industry and for making weights, shots and bullets, safety shields and casings, plus batteries, pesticides and petrol. Attempts at phasing out the latter group are slow, but in progress, as governments pressurise industry for safer alternatives.
Annual production of lead worldwide is around ten million tonnes of which about 50% is from recycling scrap. Half the world’s lead is used to make lead-acid batteries for the automobile industry.
The poisonous substance should be treated with respect so avoiding long exposure to it is the best safeguard. Detrimental health effects include damage to the nervous system and brain disorders by the neurotoxin accumulating in the soft tissues and bones.
In response to these findings I plan to work with lead by incorporating it into some of my sculptures – harnessing the material to act as a means and a metaphor. I will of course be taking the necessary health and safety precautions.
Waste consultant Andy Reade in his Liverpool warehouse where tonnes of spent batteries are waiting for the UK to develop a safe process for recycling them. Currently, the UK stores old batteries like these, which legally it is allowed to do for 3 years. If we don’t sort out a way to process them then they will be sent to Denmark for recycling. The Centre of Waste Management at UCLan is at the forefront of research technologies to resolve this problem.