The Culture of Consumerism: Reduce, Reuse, Reculture by Perth College UHIs WEEE Centre

12th June 2017

The Culture of Consumerism: Reduce, Reuse, Reculture event held by Perth College UHI’s WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Centre on Friday 19th May brought together a range of people interested in sustainability, technology and the arts for a day of thinking about e-waste, reuse and our consumer habits.

The day included an urban mining workshop, where participants took apart mobile phones to find out what is inside them, and an artist run e-waste upcycling workshop where parts from mobile phones and computers were used to make clocks and jewellery and to decorate mirrors. A playlist of films was shown at the same time to show what’s inside a mobile phone, where the materials come from and the lives that are exploited to get them; as well as some information films about the circular economy and the WEEE Centre.

Attendees were given tours of the WEEE Centre and could browse a student exhibition from Creative Industries students who had made pieces from e-waste, and were creating an e-waste mural of the City of Perth. A prototype of an e-waste collection container, which has been commissioned by the WEEE Centre and designed and built by the College’s Engineering department, was also on show.

The afternoon brought a series of talks from invited speakers.

Gemma Lawrence from Creative Carbon Scotland talked about how the arts can help shape a more sustainable Scotland, illustrated with examples of projects completed in the past by embedding artists into local authority settings to stimulate community engagement and creative thinking.

Dr Jacqueline Balfour from the Scottish Institute for Remanufacture, shared information about the rate at which raw materials are being used up in the production of electrical equipment, the issues with disposing of them, and how intervention at the design level can help to promote a more circular economy.

Tiffany Kane from the Common Weal shared with us her own path away from consumerism, the origins of the consumer culture, and suggestions for a deconsumerisation strategy.

The talks were followed by a lively discussion around the topic that many people believe that recycling is the best thing that they can do for the environment - ‘so long as it can be recycled it doesn’t matter what I buy’ - with reducing and reusing consumables taking a back seat, despite the increased environmental, social and financial benefits of these over recycling. Speakers and the audience members were invited to discuss how we can and should go about influencing the culture of consumers into considering other options for responsible consumption.

Topics raised included the role the arts can play in influencing society’s attitude towards consumption; improving human well-being through connections to each other and the natural world in order to reduce the desire to comfort consume; and strategies that could be employed by governments on a global scale to change attitudes towards measures of success.


About Perth WEEE Centre

The Waste Electrical and Electronics Centre at Perth College UHI works with students to refurbish and recycle IT and communications equipment for resale at affordable prices; benefitting students, local and international charities and providing training for students. More information is available at
The Culture of Consumerism: Reduce, Reuse, Reculture by Perth College UHIs WEEE Centre image #1 Photos from the event