Discarded electronic devices turned into Olympic medals

Tokyo 2020 will see its athletes wearing recycled medals.

The world’s largest sporting event features medals from recycled electronic gadgets such as smartphones and laptops.

The devices were assembled across the country as part of a nationwide campaign.

“The campaign called on the public to donate obsolete electronics for the project,” Toyko 2020 spokesperson Hitomi Kamizawa said. “We are grateful for everyone’s cooperation.”

The Tokyo Medal Project took advantage of the fact that e-waste is a treasure trove of essential raw materials – an average phone contains around 60 essential raw materials, ranging from cobalt and copper to precious metals such as gold and silver. . (With smartphones that have a habit of being discarded inappropriately, metals worth billions end up in landfills or are incinerated.)

90% of Japanese towns, cities and towns have participated in the metal donation campaign, with several hundred thousand residents donating their used phones to the cause. The two-year concerted national effort saved enough raw materials to produce 5,000 gold, silver and bronze medals.

Almost 79,000 tonnes of small electronic devices were collected, including 6.21 million cell phones. From these, 32 kg of gold, 3500 kg of silver and 2200 kg of bronze were mined.

The project involved the participation of various stakeholders. Stakeholders included actors from the national government, the municipality, several businesses, schools as well as other communities. When the Tokyo Medal Project was launched in April 2017, around 600 municipalities participated. By March 2019, at the end of the campaign, there were more than 1,600. A public relations campaign coupled with easily accessible collection points helped push the numbers up.

One of the companies that got involved in the effort was Renet Japan Group. Mainly involved in recycling and reuse activities, Renet has adopted sustainability as a business philosophy.

“We have developed a waste management movement for the Medal Project with the cooperation of many stakeholders, from the Japanese government to local communities,” said Toshio Kamakura, director of Renet Japan Group.

After collection, the electrical devices were thrown away. The entrepreneurs then refined the extracted metals and turned them into medals. The said medals were designed according to the plans of Japanese designer Junichi Kawanashi, who beat 400 other concepts in a competition organized by Tokyo 2020.

The concept of producing recycled medals is not new: 30% of the sterling silver used to make the Rio 2016 Games gold and silver medals is derived from used car parts and car surfaces. mirror.

It is hoped that the Paris Games in 2024 will emulate the approach, taking the Tokyo 2020 medal project as an example.

Electronic waste is currently one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world. In 2017, more than 44 million tonnes were produced worldwide – the equivalent by weight of all commercial aircraft ever built. E-waste rates are expected to increase over the next five years as the demand for high-tech gadgets continues to rise and repair infrastructure and markets only begin to adjust to this development. Less than a fifth of waste ends up being recycled, resulting in a host of environmental and health problems, as the e-waste in question usually ends up in landfills.

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