Circular economy

Tokyo 2020, Olympic medals will be made out of WEEE

Questo post è disponibile anche in: Italian

Japan plans to retrieve all the gold, silver and bronze for the medals by recovering them from electronic waste.

The Rising Sun Olympics will bring circular economy to the podium. The organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Games plan to retrieve the gold, silver and bronze required for the medals through the recycling of waste electronic equipment such as smartphones and other small devices.

E-waste is really abundant in Japan and contains enough precious metals to produce all the medals for the Olympic and Paralympic Games to be held in Tokyo four years from now. The proposal comes from a group of Olympic organizers, government officials and company executives that discussed the proposal in June 2016.

For the 2012 London Olympics, 9.6kg of gold, 1,210kg of silver and 700kg of copper, the primary component of bronze, were used to produce medals. On the other hand, in 2014 Japan recovered 143 kg of gold, 1,566 kg of silver and 1,112 tons of copper from its E-waste.

The Land of the Rising Sun is poor in natural resources, its actual “gold mines” are the small consumer electronics, which contain much of the world’s total precious metal reserves: 16% of gold and 22% of silver.

Olympic host cities usually procure metal for medals largely by asking mining companies to donate them. In this case, Tokyo would be the first Olympic organizer to avoid taking the help of mining multinationals.

The new challenge could serve as an incentive to improve Japan’s waste collection system, which is still not perfectly functioning. About 650 thousand tons of small WEEE (Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment) are discarded in Japan every year, but it is estimated that less than 100 thousand tons are collected under a system based on the small home appliance recycling law, which came into force in 2013.

Source: Nikkei Asian Review

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