Design and Violence

PERMANENT ERROR

Pieter Hugo, 2010

Exported waste

These photographs document an expansive dump of obsolete technology on the outskirts of the Agbogbloshie slum in Ghana. Local people refer to it as Sodom and Gomorrah. This wasteland, where people and cattle live on mountains of motherboards, monitors and discarded hard drives, is far removed from the benefits accorded by the unrelenting advances of technology in the developed world. Here the inhabitants of Agbogbloshie survive largely by burning the electronic devices to extract copper and other metals. The electronic waste contaminates rivers and lagoons. The UN Environment Program estimates that Western countries produce around 50 million tons of digital waste every year. In Europe, only 25% of this waste is collected and recycled; much of the rest is piled in containers and shipped to developing countries. The designed obsolescence of electronic goods in the developed world reaches its end here, in the desolation of electronic waste dumps combed through for scarce resources.