Mineral poor Japan has tapped its most abundant resource, electronic waste, to source precious metals for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic medals. Not only is this practical but makes a huge environmental statement on the worlds biggest stage.
Traditionally, metal for medals have been largely donated by the host country's mining industry. In lieu of sufficient mineral stocks, people of Japan are donating their old cell phones, cameras, video games and televisions at a world record pace. Every Japanese citizen has the opportunity to contribute directly to the ultimate prize for athletic achievement in the world games.
It is a powerful feeling to know that their sacrificial used flat screen may be one day hanging around the neck of the great Usain Bolt in a few short years from now. As we produce more and more electronics as a society, the environmental trend of recycling e-waste must keep pace.
One challenge is the fact that Japan has not fully implemented a system for collecting discarded consumer electronics. While about 650,000 tons of small electronics and electric home appliances are discarded in Japan every year, it is estimated that less than 100,000 tons is collected under a system based on the small home appliance recycling law, which came into force in 2013. [ READ MORE ]
Not only does it recover expensive precious metals, but it keeps harmful chemicals and heavy metals out of our landfills and drinking water.
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