Three computers, two laptops, three printers, three phones, two music players, two video players, two microwaves, a TV and a wireless router. That’s the amount of electrical gear I have been through in the last 18 months (off the top of my head).
I suspect (perhaps on a lesser scale) many of you can say the same. You see, electronic waste is fast becoming a major problem (you may already have seen some of the numerous charity organisations that collect second hand mobiles: RecyclingAppeal.com, ActionAid Recycling, TMPRC, Mobiles.co.uk, etc etc) so the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce – top fellas) has come up with a novel awareness initiative: WEEE Man.
WEEE Man, which stands for "Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment" (and has nothing to do with Weeman from Jackass) is composed entirely from electronic and electrical waste (including washing machines, TVs, mobile phones and vacuum cleaner tubes) and represents the amount of electrical appliance and electronic waste that an average person in the UK is likely to produce in a lifetime.
Now I’m torn on this. One side of me says the (admittedly rather impressive and imposing) figure is a little on the conservative side considering the increasingly disposable nature of modern day electronics (remember how your parents kept their living room TV for 20 years? That just isn’t the way we live anymore).
On the other, however, the actual physicality of products is getting smaller. Think of flat panels, Small Form Factor PCs, thinner laptops, teeny digital cameras and even smaller mobile phones and this doesn’t even take into account the gradual introduction of “zero space” media like digital music collections.
On top of this, increasing convergence should reduce the number of gadgets we need to buy (something Sandra Vogel recently mused about), so maybe we (or at least me, and definitely Lars!) will eventually no longer be the environmental and trash collectors’ nightmare that we currently are.
Either which way you reason, WEEE Man is still a timely reminder of our waste in society and, as a piece of art, I rather like it (even if it does have parallels with those huge bags of sugar you see set on tables during diet commercials).
The big chap will be on display at London City Hall until 27 May, before being moved to the Eden Project in Cornwall over the summer (he’ll get a tan, and avoid rusting!). I think I’ll stop by and see him, it’s probably a guilt thing though, since I figure I’ve contributed to an army of WEEE Men already…