Valentino Bellini: Bit rot

Valentino Bellini: Bit rot
International Photography Grant 2019

Bit rot is a colloquial term used in the computerized information systems environment to indicate the gradually decaying of data stored on storage medias or software over the duration of time. In this case, the concept is transposed from a virtual reality, made of bit and software, to a material one, made of real people, things and places. This reality is the research subject of the BITROT Project. Through photographic documentation, the project follows the international movements of the e-waste, providing evidence of illegal commerce and disposal and tells the stories of those who are involved, but also underlines green and sustainable alternatives that in many countries have already been adopted.

Electrical and electronic waste (e-waste) is growing faster than any other type of waste. With an annual volume that goes between 40 and 50 million metric tons, according to the UNEP (United Nation Environment Program), the growing amount of e-waste could grow exponentially, as much as 500 times over the coming decade, especially in countries like India, China and some African regions where the technology industry is growing fast. It is hazardous waste, containing dozens of substances dangerous to human health and the environment; it is hard to be sustainably disposed of and it needs a costly processing technique to make it recyclable. This is the reason why about 80% of the e-waste produced in developed countries (North America and Europe on the top of the list) is not disposed of in situ, but shipped, most of the time illegally, to developing countries on cargo ships, where it is illegally disposed of. The Basel Convention, adopted on 22 March 1989 and entered into force in 5 May 1992, lays down rules to control, at an international level, transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal, including electrical and electronic waste. However, despite this useful instrument, the international regulation is not effective enough to fight the criminal organizations that gain great profit in moving the materials internationally.

This research is inspired by this important, practical problem, represented by the e-waste and focuses on the extreme consumerism of the society we live in. A society that keeps hostage modern slaves, forced to live and work in detrimental conditions and that at same time, keeps itself as a hostage, always looking for technological and innovative products to satisfy its own need of being fast and competitive. A society where the consumer does not acknowledge boredom and his culture avoids it. Where there is not happiness and the moments of happiness are when we satisfy our impelling needs, careless of acknowledging that our choices have an impact on the life of those that have no choice.

Valentino Bellini (1984) is an Italian freelance documentary photographer, born and raised in Palermo, Sicily. After studying architecture and urban planning, began to devote himself to photography in 2008 and graduated in photography in 2010 at the CFP R.Bauer in Milan. Between 2011 and 2013, parallel to his work as a freelance photographer, he worked at Linke. Fine art lab in Milan, where he specialized in post-production, fine art printing and production of photographic exhibitions. His photographic research focuses on environmental and social issues, and especially on issues arising from the interaction of this two thems. His work has been published in national and international magazines and has been exhibited in several group and solo exhibitions in Italy and abroad. In 2013 his BIT ROT Project, documenting the issue of electronic waste around the world, has been selected as a finalist for the award APA/Lucie Foundation Scholarship.

Website: www.valentinobellini.com

Kowloon Peninsula, Hong Kong The digital hub of Sham Shui Po. Sham Shui Po is the largest electronic market in hong kong. Here merchants on the street and major shopping malls for electronics offer an endless array of products of all kinds and origins.

Kowloon Peninsula, Hong Kong
The digital hub of Sham Shui Po. Sham Shui Po is the largest electronic market in hong kong. Here merchants on the street and major shopping malls for electronics offer an endless array of products of all kinds and origins.

Lahore, Pakistan. In a bulk warehouse of used electronic components, printed circuit boards waiting to be processed.

Lahore, Pakistan.
In a bulk warehouse of used electronic components, printed circuit boards waiting to be processed.

Agbobloshie, Accra, Ghana. One of the young boys working in Agbobloshie made the landfill his home; he has built a shelter made of different types of scraps and wastes. Most part of the people who work in Agbobloshie are from rural Northern Ghana. To work in Agbobloshie they have to leave their families and their homes.

Agbobloshie, Accra, Ghana.
One of the young boys working in Agbobloshie made the landfill his home; he has built a shelter made of different types of scraps and wastes. Most part of the people who work in Agbobloshie are from rural Northern Ghana. To work in Agbobloshie they have to leave their families and their homes.

Old Seelampur, New Delhi, India. Old transistors boiling in metal pots. In this way, the plastic will melt and he will be able to gather the metallic parts and sell them. Most of the time, this technique is carried out in a yard or in private houses, just like in this case. The consequences are severe problems to the health of the worker; because of the toxic smoke produced by burning plastic.

Old Seelampur, New Delhi, India.
Old transistors boiling in metal pots. In this way, the plastic will melt and he will be able to gather the metallic parts and sell them.
Most of the time, this technique is carried out in a yard or in private houses, just like in this case. The consequences are severe problems to the health of the worker; because of the toxic smoke produced by burning plastic.

Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong Hong Kong harbour is one of the largest commercial ports in the world and is the largest access point to mainland China for goods from all over the world. Here arrive also container ships full of electric and electronic waste from Europe and the United States.

Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong
Hong Kong harbour is one of the largest commercial ports in the world and is the largest access point to mainland China for goods from all over the world. Here arrive also container ships full of electric and electronic waste from Europe and the United States.

Guiyu, China On the outside of a workshop where are dismantled and recycled electrical and electronic components.

Guiyu, China
On the outside of a workshop where are dismantled and recycled electrical and electronic components.

New Territories, Hong Kong A collection and stocking site for electrical and electronic waste. Here are collected large amounts of e-waste arrived by container ship at the port of Hong Kong. Will be stocked here for a short time, waiting to be transported overland to the various recycling sites in China, which is a few kilometers away. The border with Shenzehn is just behind those hills.

New Territories, Hong Kong
A collection and stocking site for electrical and electronic waste. Here are collected large amounts of e-waste arrived by container ship at the port of Hong Kong. Will be stocked here for a short time, waiting to be transported overland to the various recycling sites in China, which is a few kilometers away. The border with Shenzehn is just behind those hills.

Shahdara, Lahore, Pakistan. Outdated electronic equipments are resold in a small retail shop. Old cathode ray tube televisions, old radios and recorders imported mostly from China, constitute for a good portion of the population the access to new forms of communication before unapproachable, even though bringing with them high risks to human health and environment.

Shahdara, Lahore, Pakistan.
Outdated electronic equipments are resold in a small retail shop.
Old cathode ray tube televisions, old radios and recorders imported mostly from China, constitute for a good portion of the population the access to new forms of communication before unapproachable, even though bringing with them high risks to human health and environment.

Old Seelampur, New Delhi, India. Two young men during a break in a warehouse full of old cathode ray tube monitors. These types of devices contain polluting and toxic substances like lead, cadmium, hexavalent chromium and Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs). A prolonged exposure to these compounds can cause serious problems for the environment and for human health.

Old Seelampur, New Delhi, India.
Two young men during a break in a warehouse full of old cathode ray tube monitors. These types of devices contain polluting and toxic substances like lead, cadmium, hexavalent chromium and Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs).
A prolonged exposure to these compounds can cause serious problems for the environment and for human health.

Old Seelampur, New Delhi, India. Old Seelampur is one of the poorest suburb areas but the biggest e-waste market in Delhi. There are dozens of retail and wholesale stores. Most of them buy materials from abroad (USA, Europe, Dubai). They buy it for about $10 cents to $15 cents per kilo and they sell it for double the price to other stores. There, they separate the components of the electric and electronic devices in order to sell them again.

Old Seelampur, New Delhi, India.
Old Seelampur is one of the poorest suburb areas but the biggest e-waste market in Delhi. There are dozens of retail and wholesale stores. Most of them buy materials from abroad (USA, Europe, Dubai). They buy it for about $10 cents to $15 cents per kilo and they sell it for double the price to other stores. There, they separate the components of the electric and electronic devices in order to sell them again.

Chennai, India. Two workers of SIMS Recycling Solutions, the global leader in the recovery of electronic and electric wastes for reuse and recycling. It has facilities in the five continents. SIMS signs contracts with big companies that recycle obsolete devices on their premises. SIMS Recycling Solutions provides 1700 collection points of end of life electronics throughout India. However, managing to take away large amounts of waste from the illegal market is a hard task, especially in places like India, where people live selling wastes, the same wastes that in other countries would be disposed of for free. SIMS is trying to raise awareness in the population about the risks of environmental pollution and for the human health and is offering services to the local community.

Chennai, India.
Two workers of SIMS Recycling Solutions, the global leader in the recovery of electronic and electric wastes for reuse and recycling. It has facilities in the five continents. SIMS signs contracts with big companies that recycle obsolete devices on their premises. SIMS Recycling Solutions provides 1700 collection points of end of life electronics throughout India. However, managing to take away large amounts of waste from the illegal market is a hard task, especially in places like India, where people live selling wastes, the same wastes that in other countries would be disposed of for free. SIMS is trying to raise awareness in the population about the risks of environmental pollution and for the human health and is offering services to the local community.

Agbobloshie, Accra, Ghana. A guy is standing in the midst of smoke, fire and residual parts of electronic equipment as he burn it to extract some copper contained inside he will resell later to gain his daily food.

Agbobloshie, Accra, Ghana.
A guy is standing in the midst of smoke, fire and residual parts of electronic equipment as he burn it to extract some copper contained inside he will resell later to gain his daily food.

Walton Road, Lahore, Pakistan. On the roof of a building, bins full of chemicals that will be used for the extraction of precious metals from electronic waste.

Walton Road, Lahore, Pakistan.
On the roof of a building, bins full of chemicals that will be used for the extraction of precious metals from electronic waste.

Lahore, Pakistan. A guy stand in front of a huge pile of electronic components which will be later processed to extract precious metals.

Lahore, Pakistan.
A guy stand in front of a huge pile of electronic components which will be later processed to extract precious metals.

Old Seelampur, New Delhi, India. Workers in front of a warehouse used to dismantle electronic devices. They separate the components and extract the valuable parts to sell.

Old Seelampur, New Delhi, India.
Workers in front of a warehouse used to dismantle electronic devices. They separate the components and extract the valuable parts to sell.

Kancheepuram Districti, Tamil Nadu, India. GEMS (Global E-Waste Managment and Services) facilities close to Chennai. GEMS is one of the few companies authorized to treat electric and electronic waste in India. They separate the different parts of the wastes, plastic and metallic, and then they sell them to companies specialized in the recycling of those specific materials. According to the law in India, it is not possible to treat and recycle materials like PBCs (Printed Circuit Boards) because of the substances they contain. Consequentially, a company like GEMS is allowed to accumulate and store a minimum of 300 tons of material and then export it to other countries, (Hong Kong and Singapore) where they can legally treat them.

Kancheepuram Districti, Tamil Nadu, India.
GEMS (Global E-Waste Managment and Services) facilities close to Chennai.
GEMS is one of the few companies authorized to treat electric and electronic waste in India. They separate the different parts of the wastes, plastic and metallic, and then they sell them to companies specialized in the recycling of those specific materials. According to the law in India, it is not possible to treat and recycle materials like PBCs (Printed Circuit Boards) because of the substances they contain. Consequentially, a company like GEMS is allowed to accumulate and store a minimum of 300 tons of material and then export it to other countries, (Hong Kong and Singapore) where they can legally treat them.

Wagha Town, Lahore, Pakistan. Trucks full of metallic materials coming from the disposal of electric and electronic waste arrive to this foundry daily. Here the metal, along with some other metal scrap of different provenience, is melted at a temperature of 1800 degrees Celsius. In this way, they create new metallic materials and use it in the construction field.

Wagha Town, Lahore, Pakistan.
Trucks full of metallic materials coming from the disposal of electric and electronic waste arrive to this foundry daily. Here the metal, along with some other metal scrap of different provenience, is melted at a temperature of 1800 degrees Celsius. In this way, they create new metallic materials and use it in the construction field.

Lahore, Pakistan. An electronic and electrical waste collection area on the outskirts of Lahore. In this place small business owners look for waste that they can use for recycling and waste disposal purposes or that contain precious metals.

Lahore, Pakistan.
An electronic and electrical waste collection area on the outskirts of Lahore. In this place small business owners look for waste that they can use for recycling and waste disposal purposes or that contain precious metals.

Agbobloshie, Accra, Ghana. A young man is transporting electric materials ready to be burnt. The materials treated in the Agbobloshie landfill contain substances that are highly toxic for the environment and for human health. Cadmium, lead, phthalates, antimony, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), chlorobenzenes, Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), triphenyl phosphate (TPP), Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs).

Agbobloshie, Accra, Ghana.
A young man is transporting electric materials ready to be burnt. The materials treated in the Agbobloshie landfill contain substances that are highly toxic for the environment and for human health. Cadmium, lead, phthalates, antimony, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), chlorobenzenes, Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), triphenyl phosphate (TPP), Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs).

Guangzhou, China A boy waits for customers in his hardware materials store, inside a big shopping mall for electronics. They sell mostly used materials which can then be used to compose "new" second-hand electronic items.

Guangzhou, China
A boy waits for customers in his hardware materials store, inside a big shopping mall for electronics.
They sell mostly used materials which can then be used to compose “new” second-hand electronic items.

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International Photography Grant 2019