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This project is part of United Matters

A personal journey exploring how cleaning rivers can be more complicated then we might imagine

Currently, 1,500 km of rivers in the UK have unhealthy levels of metal content due to acid drainage from abandoned mines. This metal pollution can seriously affect local fish and insect populations, as well as local flora and fauna, which cannot thrive in an environment where soils have become metal heavy due to river runoff.

Cleaning up a waste system responsibly can be incredibly complex and energy-intensive. So much so, that it is very challenging from economic and sustainability perspectives. In the end, I created a DIY system to explore how one might extract metals that pollute UK rivers, and, from the extracted metal, I created a coin as a material representation of industrial waste.

The front of my coin resembles the lagoons that now are used for remediation to store toxic mine water. The back of the coin depicts the setting where I recreated a polluted river during lockdown – my bathtub. The zig zags around the coin represent the electric current used to separate the metals from the water.

The coin materializes the land and symbolizes what happens when economic activity and environmental stewardship are not in balance; it is a call to action for remediation.