Visual Essay: E-waste in the Congo


When it came to designing this animation, I thought long and hard about the stylistic choices that would go into the video. Being a graphic designer I approached the animation as a series of visually striking posters in motion, and aimed to intrigue the viewer to take a closer look and engage with the content.

Firstly, the colour scheme was chosen to reflect ‘African’ culture in order to highlight my focus on the effects of E-waste on the Congo, additionally the bright hues are highly stimulating and have been proven to foster higher engagement and information retention.


Secondly was the decision regarding style, I chose the style of ‘flat animation’  as not only is it very popular in the design world now, but was something I have always wanted  to explore; additionally the minimalist and cartoon nature of the style has seen promising results in regards to viewer engagement.


Lastly music, this aspect of the video creation was difficult as it was harder to integrate, however, I wanted something more theatrical that will highlight the seriousness of the issue and create a balance from the bright and less ominous colour scheme, in order to set a dramatic tone.

As a designer I am use to communicating through images, however images in motion is something that I haven’t explored and it took an adjustment, that being said I definitely want to employ this method in the future, as it is highly effective. This project has highlighted just how important the combination between the visual and music elements of my video were to the overall effect, it did stress the importance of words to provide further information, context and guide the audience through the video. While images and text are strong alone in specific contexts, for this purpose the two mediums supported one another and were crucial for the overall desired effect.


Animation created with Abobe Creative Suite. Adobe Illustrator was used to create illustrations, Adobe Indesign was used to position and add text to illustrations, All completed animation frames where then imported to Adobe Photoshop where frame rate and image sequencing was edited. Lastly the animation sequence was put into Adobe After effects where music was added and the video was exported to QuickTime format.  In total more than five different Adobe software programs was used to create this animation.


*Note images used in the video are from Creative Commons and are reference under Photography in the reference list.


E-waste is becoming an increasingly critical problem for the global village, and stands as one of the most important issues of our generation, the problem is worldwide, and has been seen as a source of great unity between nations. Compared with Japan and northern European countries, Australia’s e-waste system is in its infancy. Progress has been made, certainly, since the introduction of the National Waste Plan and the Product Stewardship Act. However e-waste in Australia is growing three times faster than other waste streams (Li, C.Y & Wang, B.L 2012, p.42), thus the capacity and sophistication of the country’s systems will have to grow and adapt in order to meet future demand.

Worldwide we produced more than 48 million tonnes of e-waste in 2014 alone (yearly average is 40 million tonnes), with Australia creating the highest rate per capita worldwide 2015). As mentioned in the video Australia produced enough e-waste to fill 8400 semi- trailers in 2008, this number jumped by 300 percent in 2013 2015), and is expected to increase another 80 percent by 2020 (Balakrishnan, R & Babu, A & Kuber, P & Chiya  A.B 2007, p.312). These figures are shocking and e-waste show no signs of decreasing, thus the importance of developing a sustainable and effective e-waste management scheme for Australia is imperative. However before we get into creating the solution we first need to outline all relevant aspects of the problem, in my research I found four sectors (levels) where improvement is needed.

The first level is the product production and design, while Apple’s profit margin continues to increase with each new version of the Iphone and Ipad that it brings out, the slightly updated model is leading to millions of functioning ‘last season’ models to hit e-waste landfill sites. While the lure of getting the new version is very enticing, it is not very sustainable and environmentally friendly; Apple’s planned obsolesce in their products might be a profitable marketing strategy but it is considered by some as unethical (Economist Intelligence Unit 2015, p.13). As a result Apple customers are forced to upgrade faster than they would like, old models becoming outdated well before customer’s ideal service lifespan; this coupled with the lack of continual software upgrading for older models, is forcing customers to buy the latest model or risk using an irrelevant outdated model.

Here companies should reward and encourage sustainable designs, and discourage ‘designing for the dump’ (Widmer, E & Oswald-Krapf, H & Boni, H & Schnellmann, M & Sinha-Khetriwal 2005, p.442), sustainable designs should be motivated by to solving sustainable design problems not creating environmental troubles. Companies could be motivated to design green if they paid tax or payed for the recycling and clean up associated with their unsustainable products. In fact, Japan’s Law for the Promotion of Effective Utilisation of Resources Acts states that corporations pay a 30% tax on products in order to assist in the recycling of their product, with fines being awarded to those undertaking unsustainable practises (Davis, G & Wolski, M 2009, p.25).

The next level is infrastructure, while Australia has made enormous changes to its recycling capabilities since the start of the 21st century; these facilities are constantly playing catch up. For example the Sydney based e-waste recycling facility Sims Recycling Solutions, has the capacity to process about 40 000 tonnes of e-waste per year, however even at full capacity it’s only a fraction of the 160 000 tonnes produced by Sydney each year (Davis, G & Heart, S 2010, p.708). Here government allowances should be made to ensure more resources (land and finances) is allocated to business in this sector, in the hopes of meeting the need for more recycling companies and facilities nationally.

Next is the legislation level, while the previous two levels where focused on corporations and producers of the product this level focuses on the legal and government sectors, and their role in improving Australia’s e-waste dilemma. While the Australian government has put several commonwealth legislative acts into place over the last 20 years, [Hazard Status of Waste Electrical and Electronic Assemblies or Scrap 1999; and the Hazardous Waste (by Department of Regulation of Exports and Imports & Environment Australia) Act 1989] Australia still lacks a complete national e-waste recycling scheme. The federal government’s refusal to commit to a mandatory e-waste recycling policy for citizens and corporations has left progress at a standstill, the government still considering several schemes proposed by the Natural Environment Protection Council (NEPC) (Source). Here government representatives can discuss and vote on a national and local schemes for e-waste management policies, for example the introduction of a national tax for citizens and corporations for waste services. Two policies employed globally is a flat tax, through which a fixed price is paid regardless of the amount thrown away or a “pay-as-you-throw”, or PAYT system, in which households pay higher taxes as they throw away more waste (Economist Intelligence Unit 2015, p.13).

Lastly the level of awareness, this level concerns the notion of informing the public about the prevalent issue that is e-waste and education regarding facilities and resources that are available to them. A 2010 survey of Australian local councils regarding public awareness of recycling option for electronic waste, found that 27% of councils indicated that they believed the public were ‘not at all aware’; 40% indicated that they were only ‘slightly aware’ and 11% ‘moderately aware’ (Economist Intelligence Unit 2015, p. 7). It becomes evident that the first step for local councils is informing the public about the extremity of the situation and local solutions available, only when the general public is aware and passionate about making a change, can change begin.

While there is countless debate over whose responsibility it is to fix the problem that is e-waste, I believe that we need to see the issue as a human problem, and aim to work in unison to make a change. Making progress will require a multi-tiered approach where all 4 sectors and all parties (corporations, government, citizens) share the responsibility and work cohesively towards one identical goal, which is to reduce e-waste and save the environment. United around one common goal, nations will bind together to develop a solution that will decrease e-waste and improve quality of life for those communities affected.


Li, C.Y & Wang, B.L 2012, E-waste: Management, Types and Challenges, in Computer Science, Technology and Application, Nova publication, New York, pp. 39- 67

Davis, G & Heart, S 2010, Opportunities and constraints for developing a sustainable E-waste management system at local government level in Australia, in Waste Management & Research , vol.28, pp.705–713

Economist Intelligence Unit 2015, Global e-waste systems Insights for Australia from other developed countries, pp. 1 – 20, accessed 24/05/2015,

Widmer, E & Oswald-Krapf, H & Boni, H & Schnellmann, M & Sinha-Khetriwal 2005, Global Perspectives of E-waste, in Environmental Impact Assesment Review, vol.25, pp. 436 – 458

Stevels, A & Huisman, J & Wang, F & Ll, W & Bpyang, L.I & Duan, H  2013, Take back and treatment of discarded electronics : A Scientific update,  in Environmental Science, vol.7, no.4, pp.475–482

Davis, G & Wolski, M 2009, E-waste and the sustainable organisation: Griffith University’s approach to e-waste , in International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 21-32

Cleanuporg 2015, 2009 E-waste Fact sheet, accessed 21/05/2015,—e-waste-factsheet-final.pdf

Balakrishnan, R & Babu, A & Kuber, P & Chiya  A.B 2007, Electrical and electronic waste: a global environmental problem, in Waste Manage Research, vol.7, no. 25, pp. 307–318

Photography Fig 1 -4 (in that order)

Mcconnell, A 2014, Ghana 1, May 05 via Flicker, Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No derivatives license

Mcconnell, A 2014, Ghana 6, May 05 via Flicker, Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No derivatives license

Mcconnell, A 2014, Ghana 4, May 05 via Flicker, Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No derivatives license

Tarantola, A 2013, E- Hell On Earth: Where the West’s Electronics Go to Die, May 05 via Flicker, Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No derivatives license


Ozymandias by Lyvo featured on Jamendo: Royalty Free Music

Introspective Pain by Giovanni Leon Dall’O featured on Jamendo: Royalty Free Music


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s