Dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion poi­son­ing the planet


By 2020, more than five bil­lion peo­ple will own a mo­bile phone. Most of these will be changed ev­ery two years. This high­lights two prob­lems with these de­vices - their man­u­fac­ture, and their dis­posal.

This May, Manawatu’s Reel Earth En­vi­ron­men­tal Film Fes­ti­val will be show­ing two films about elec­tronic de­vices, Death by

De­sign and E-Waste Tragedy. With elec­tronic de­vices come a broad range of con­se­quences - from pro­duc­ing the de­vice, to the im­pact on our per­sonal lives while us­ing it and fi­nally, dis­pos­ing of it.

In Death by De­sign award­win­ning film­maker Sue Wil­liams ex­plores the un­der­belly of the in­ter­na­tional elec­tron­ics in­dus­try and re­veals how even the tini­est de­vices have deadly en­vi­ron­men­tal and health costs.

From Chi­nese work­ers labour­ing in un­safe con­di­tions, Amer­i­can fam­i­lies liv­ing with the tragic con­se­quences of the in­dus­try’s toxic prac­tices, to ac­tivists lead­ing the charge to hold brands ac­count­able, and pas­sion­ate en­trepreneurs who are de­vel­op­ing more sus­tain­able prod­ucts,

Death by De­sign charts the en­vi­ron­men­tal and hu­man costs of our ob­ses­sion with dig­i­tal gad­gets.

There is an­other side of the is­sue – dis­pos­ing of e-waste.

In E-Waste Tragedy Cosima Dan­noritzer re­veals that 75 per cent of the world’s e-waste dis­ap­pears from le­gal re­cy­cling cir­cuits - much of it shipped il­le­gally to In­dia, China or Africa.

Cosima dis­cov­ers that il­le­gal re­cy­cling and waste dump­ing is a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar busi­ness. Whole ci­ties in China are lit­er­ally drown­ing in dis­carded ap­pli­ances, re­cy­cled with to­tal dis­re­gard for the en­vi­ron­ment or the fu­ture.

These films will make you ques­tion what hap­pens to your mo­bile phone af­ter you re­cy­cle it. Will it end up in China or Africa? How can we be­come more re­spon­si­ble with our per­sonal elec­tron­ics?

Au­di­ences will be in­vited to dis­cuss these ques­tions with e-waste ex­perts and the com­mu­nity. Check out the Reel Earth pro­gramme at ree­learth.org.nz.


An il­le­gal pile of e-waste, from the en­vi­ron­men­tal film ‘‘E-Waste Tragedy’’.

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