Author: Claire Bell
The 2000 Sydney Olympic games may have been the first to call itself the ‘green’ games but the Tokyo 2020 Games looks set to take it to the next level. Making the medals from recycled e-waste and building a wooden stadium are just two of the initatives that have been announced.
To produce the 5000 medals needed for the games the organising committee aims to collect around eight tonnes of metal, including 40kg of gold, nearly 5kg of silver and around 3kg of bronze. After processing, the actual weight of the medals will total around two tonnes. The resources will come from redundant electronic devices such as old mobile phones and computers.
The Japanese people are being encouraged to get involved, to think about what happens to their electronic waste and to drop their unwanted devices into special collection boxes so they can be made into medals. It’s seen as a great way to raise awareness the value of resources found in electronic waste that so often end up in landfill.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach says, “These medals will be a permanent reminder to the Olympic champions of 2020 of their achievements. It’s good to see that they will also send a strong message of sustainability around the world in line with Olympic Agenda 2020.”
According to a 2015 article in the Japan Times the country currently recycles around 30% of its electronic waste. With recycling rates varying in other developed nations and diminishing natural resources for these precious materials there is developing impetus to increase e-waste recycling rates globally.
E-waste collections are becoming increasingly common around the world. In Australia there is an industry led collection scheme for mobile phones and since 2012, a joint industry and government National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme which has provided free drop-off locations for old TVs, computers and accessories. Similar schemes operate in many European countries. Battey collections are run by councils or retailers.
Another key sustainability initiative of the Games is the construction of a wooden stadium. The construction phase of most buildings has the biggest environmental impact and by choosing to build in certified wood the Games organisers are dramatically reducing their impact. Wood is the only major building material that stores carbon so the stadium will act as a carbon sink. Plants and trees will also fill the terraces that make up the exterior.
Having sustainability front and centre of world events such as the Olympics reinforces the message that procuring materials from recycled and sustainable sources is the path of the future - it is viable, affordable and indeed essential to do so.