THE ANTHROPOCENE SLAM: A CABINET OF CURIOSITIES NOVEMBER 8-10

WISCONSIN INSTITUTES FOR DISCOVERY DELUCA FORUM MADISON

Batteries

photo of a very old battery

As commonplace - and invisible in its ubiquity - as the battery is in the fully electronic world of today, it has multiple tales to tell of past, present, and future socio-technical and environmental relations. In this project we highlight the multiplicities inherent in the battery as artifact and demonstrate the ways in which the batteries of today make themselves visible as waste. We draw out the material, environmental and economic impacts of the trade in used batteries between Canada, Mexico and the United States between 2005 and 2011, when over twenty thousand tons of battery waste were traded among the three countries (USEPA FOIA HQ-2013-002551). We interrogate the afterlives of two types of batteries, comparing the geography of recycling and disposal of lead-acid batteries to that of the now more common lithium ion battery. Though the ability to recycle parts of these batteries has increased, both still produce waste, which must be managed into the near and distant future. We thus compare the regulatory regimes, processing procedures, and benefits and burdens associated with recycling and disposing of these two battery types. Using records from a Freedom of Information Act request, we use geovisualization techniques to highlight multiple battery flows and analyze their differential impacts on peoples and environments.

Presenters