Opportunities for action in times of electronic waste
Coping with the gigantic amounts of toxic e-waste is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Despite promising technical solutions, the majority of electronic scrap worldwide is currently not recycled. All too often, the problem is “solved” by shifting to countries with low environmental standards. However, e-waste production effectively begins with the extraction of raw materials and the manufacture of equipment. Since M. Lynch’s definition of green criminology in 1990, the debate has become more heated: activists describe those who pollute the earth by producing and depositing hazardous equipment and materials and thus deprive others of their livelihoods as criminal. They should be persecuted as criminals. Manufacturers would also have to be held accountable.
But is it really possible to move forward if you work with concepts such as crime? Is this the approach to prevent exploitative economic activity or should we start from a different point of view? By improving the technical aspects of waste disposal, for example, or by introducing alternatively produced devices to the market?
An environmental lawyer, a spokesperson for an alternative smartphone manufacturer, and an engineer specializing in electronic scrap recycling will discuss these urgent issues with a technology and science philosopher. The different professional perspectives are to be considered together. They were invited by the Times of Waste research group. What are the possible perspectives and options for action? How can changes be implemented in a globalized world? What role does the power of consumers play in the industrial nations?
Panel: Ursula Brunner (environmental lawyer, Zurich), Anna Muser (SHIFTphones Switzerland, Bern) and Rolf Widmer (Empa, St. Gallen).
Chair: Astrid Schwarz (Technology philosopher, Cottbus/Basel).
Audience: Claudio Alder (SHIFTphones Switzerland) and Martin Lüchinger (AUE, Basel)
Dr. Dr. hc. Ursula Brunner works as a lawyer in the law firm ettlersuter. She specializes in environmental law and its further development and has been active in various federal bodies.
Anna Muser is the communications officer for SHIFT Switzerland, Claudio Alder is the owner of SHIFT Switzerland and works with a family business in China, is committed to fair working conditions and component repairability. www.shiftphones.ch
Rolf Widmer works as an engineer for Empa in the team for technology and society. This company develops environmentally friendly recycling methods nationally and internationally in the field of e-waste – also for cars, which now make up a large proportion of e-waste.
Prof. Dr. Astrid Schwarz conducts research and teaches at the “Culture and Technology” course of studies at the Brandenburg Technical University in Cottbus. She is interested in how a responsible Times of Waste approach to future-oriented technologies is possible in the Anthropocene.
Martin Lüchinger is head of the waste management department at the Office for Environment and Energy of the Canton of Basel-Stadt. It advocates environmentally conscious, innovative waste disposal and calls for greater attention to be paid in future to the prevention of waste in addition to disposal.
The Times of Waste team consists of Flavia Caviezel (project management), Mirjam Bürgin, Anselm Caminada, Adrian Demleitner, Marion Mertens, Yvonne Volkart and Sonia Malpeso. In collaboration with HeK (House of Electronic Arts Basel): Sabine Himmelsbach, Boris Magrini.