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Going for gold not landfill - recycled e-waste Olympic medals step in right direction

Going for gold not landfill - recycled e-waste Olympic medals step in right direction

Team GB are flying at this year's Olympics, with the likes of Tom Daley, Lauren Williams and Charlotte Dujardin posing with gold, silver and bronze medals that they have won.

But did you know that all 5,000 Olympic and Paralympic medals up for grabs this year are made using recycled materials? 

Japan's organising committee appealed to the Japanese public and businesses to send in their old phones, laptops and other electronic devices so that they could be melted down for their precious metals. 

Around 47,488 tonnes of electronics, including 5 million mobile phones, were sent in to be recycled over 18 months. 

But this pales into insignificance in comparison to the amount of e-waste produced globally, which is rapidly increasing by 2.5 million metric tonnes every year. In 2019, there were 53.6 million metric tonnes of e-waste, which works out as 7.3kg per capita! (The Global E-Waste statistics partnership).

That would, on paper, be enough to make 5.6 billion medals!

Recycling your old computer or phone isn't quite as simple as chucking it into your recycling bin. There are hazardous materials like lead and mercury that need to be handled carefully when sent to be recycled. TV's, games consoles, printers and the like have multiple plastic, glass and metal components that require intensive steps to recycle them properly. 

As much as 20% of old computers or electronic gear is refurbished and then sent overseas to lower-income countries. Some of this is done illegally, without proper labour or environmental regulations, often putting workers and local communities at risk.

Japan's novel idea of turning e-waste into medals may be a token gesture, but it is still an important step in the right direction, providing that it goes beyond a PR exercise.

These recycled medals show what happens when we all come together for a common cause. 

We have already seen how well nature bounced back during lockdown. While it is not realistic to lock ourselves away for eternity, it showed that it was possible to make positive changes as a country and as a planet at the drop of a hat. 

The leaders of countries across the globe will meet at COP 26 in Glasgow in November. Around 25,000 will attend this UN Conference, vital for coming together to come up with plans and solutions about how we tackle climate change.

Change can come from all directions. We live in a relatively 'free' society (or do we?) where as individuals we can make choices to travel less, buy less and recycle more etc. But change also comes from the top, from our local councils and from our governments. 

Sadly, some of the advice and guidance that the UK government has been less than helpful. Allegra Stratton, the Prime Ministers' COP 26 spokeswoman made a suggestion to not pre-rinse plates before putting them into a dishwasher that was both prescriptive and preposterous. In 2018, only 50% of UK households had dishwashers. Dale Vince, owner of green energy company Electricity, pointed out that a single beef burger consumes around 2000 litres of water - so a quick rinse of a few plates is very much a drop in the ocean compared to much more radical suggestions such as eating less meat and dairy.

We can start to get organised at a much smaller and local level. At Green Heart Collective we take in generous donations from walk-ins, as well as working with local businesses to repurpose old or dead stock and returns. In doing so we reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill. 

We champion the idea of #buyingnothingnew and in our curated Showcase and across our platforms online, we offer fantastic preloved fashion and other items as an alternative to buying brand new. 


So how can you cut down on your e-waste?
  1. Avoid trends; buy what you need (don't give in to the new iPhone!)
  2. Delay your upgrades - do you need the latest phone or can you get by with your old one for a bit longer?
  3. Recycle responsibly - batteries can be taken to supermarkets, check your local council's recycling rules
  4. Donate old devices to charities such as Weeecharity, or Computer Aid International
  5. When buying a new laptop or TV, enquire with your retailer about any take-back or recycling services they offer
  6. Buy a device that is modular i.e you can swap parts out of it to keep it going.

Why not start your #buynothingnew journey by browsing our website and online platforms across ebay, Instagram, Depop and Vinted for preloved goods including fashion, vintage items and more. 

 

 

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