The thrill of victory – the agony of defeat. That’s the spirit of the Olympics, as demonstrated by last month’s Rio Olympics in Brazil. For the 2010 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, a new competitor could stand on the victory podium: electronic waste, or e-waste.
“Japan is exploring the feasibility of forging the Olympic 2020 medals using precious metals salvaged from electronic waste,” reported BBC News. In the Rio games, 918 medals were awarded – including 306 medals each for gold, silver and bronze medals. So that’s a lot of e-waste that will be re-used.
“Olympic host cities have traditionally obtained the metal from mining firms,” continued the BBC. “But Japan, which lacks its own mineral resources, is keen to take the theme of a sustainable future a step further.”
History buffs will remember that the major reason Japan began its military expansion throughout the Pacific, culminating in its defeat in World War II, was to search for natural resources unobtainable on the home islands.
According to a Columbia University history account, “The Japanese military faced a particular tactical problem in that certain critical raw materials – especially oil and rubber – were not available within the Japanese sphere of influence. Instead, Japan received most of its oil from the United States and rubber from British Malaya, the very two Western nations trying to restrict Japan’s expansion. U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s embargo of oil exports to Japan pressured the Japanese navy, which had stocks for only about six months of operations.”
So it makes sense for Japan to riff on its recycling programs today, also playing up a modern ecological angle.
The process used in Tokyo would be similar to E-Waste Security’s:
- Call us to schedule a pickup date and time that is convenient for you
- Provide us with a general list of equipment so we can be as efficient as possible
- Have your electronic equipment unplugged and ready to go
- We will remove and transport the equipment to a responsible recycling facility
It’s also worth pointing out that the “gold” medals awarded at the Olympics are nowhere near pure gold. “The gold medals go through an extra step called the ‘bath of gold.’ The gold medal is actually made of 494 grams of silver and 6 grams of gold,” reported CNN.
Although the medals still look “gold,” the silvering saves a lot of money. Currently, gold costs about $42.66 a gram (24 carat). But silver costs only about .62 a gram.
A single, 500-gram medal of 24 carats would cost about $23,000 at current prices. The total cost for 306 gold metals would be a whopping $7 million.
But the gold/silver mix reduces that to about $562 ($256 for the gold + $306 for the silver). So the total for the 306 “gold” medals comes to about $172,000. Quite a difference.
This is another example of how the world is turning to recycling e-waste. As our digital “footprints” multiply, so does the waste. And the need to properly dispose of it.