Trash totem: ‘Mount Recyclemore’ sculpture appears on Cornish beach

Mount Recyclemore

A giant Mount Rushmore-like sculpture of the G7 leaders’ heads, made entirely of discarded electronics, has appeared on a beach near Carbis Bay. The pun-tastically titled sculpture has been assembled – say its creators – to highlight the growing threat presented by e-waste, and its timing – coming ahead of the forthcoming G7 meeting – is very much intentional.

Featuring Boris Johnson, Joe Biden and Angela Merkel, the sculpture is the handiwork of UK re-commerce firm musicMagpie, working with artist (and founder of the Mutoid Waste Company) Joe Rush, and sculptor Alex Wreckage.

Joe Rush has previously collaborated with the likes of Banksy, Vivienne Westwood and Damien Hirst to create art about environmental issues and is now working with musicMagpie to raise awareness of the more sustainable way to buy, rent and sell consumer tech via the circular economy.

The firm offers context to the installation, which has been erected following research showing that the G7 nations alone produce almost 15.9 million tonnes of e-waste a year, with the US (6.9m), Japan (2.6m), Germany (1.6m) and UK (1.6m) being the worst offenders. In fact, in 2019 the UK produced 23.9kg per capita annually – that’s the second highest waste electrical and electronic equipment per capita in the world.

According to the UN, the current 53 million tonnes of e-waste generated annually worldwide will more than double by 2050, making it the fastest growing waste stream in the world.

Despite this growing environmental issue, musicMagpie’s own research has found that an alarming four in five (79%) Brits do not know what e-waste is. When given the definition of e-waste, nearly a third (31%) didn’t believe it damaged the environment or were unsure, while 45% weren’t aware it impacted climate change.

Over half of Brits (54%) also admit to being surprised by the amount of e-waste the UK produces per year, with it being more than they expected.

Unless urgent action is taken the issue of e-waste could worsen, as research from musicMagpie revealed that Brits are already sitting on £16.5 Billion worth of technology they no longer use, holding on average 11 unused devices per household*.

And almost half of Brits (47%) currently do not recycle, resell, or donate their old tech to charity, with most opting to hold onto it instead where it ends up at the back of drawers collecting dust. Staggeringly, almost five million adults** even openly admit to throwing old tech in the bin at home.

“E-waste is a growing problem worldwide and its impact on the environment is significant,” said Steve Oliver, founder and CEO, at musicMagpie. If sent to landfill, it can leak harmful chemicals into the soil and water, he said. And if incinerated, it releases toxic chemicals into the air. There is also the fact that our phones and appliances depend on a limited supply of the precious metals residing therein – and their extraction exacerbates climate change.

“We need to better educate and empower people to make changes today. People can support a more sustainable, circular economy, by doing something as simple as trading in or recycling their tech, which will extend the life of those devices and their parts. Thanks to our customers, we are already able to give nearly half a million consumer technology products a second life each year.”

As part of its Mount Recyclemore campaign, musicMagpie has partnered with global waste management charity WasteAid. Throughout June, musicMagpie will give the charity £1 for each piece of consumer tech customers trade in with them. In addition, sellers will have the option to donate the value offered by the recommerce platform to the charity. Donations will be used to fund WasteAid’s sustainable e-waste management education programmes in lower-income countries.

Ceris Turner-Bailes, CEO, at WasteAid commented:

“We hope Mount Recyclemore will bring awareness and demonstrate the impact of waste on the environment to the wider public. Helping communities and governments manage their waste properly is vital if we are to tackle climate change and reduce damage to the environment. This partnership with musicMagpie will support global education and training programmes on e-waste management and circular systems.”

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