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What can we learn from Japan about recycling tech?

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24 February 2017

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Legacy and sustainability are words we often hear from countries due to hold the Olympic Games but 2020 host, Japan, has taken this to a new level and has announced that the medals for Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games will be made from recycled mobile phones.  

Japan has a reputation for being at the forefront of modern recycling but soon there will be collection points popping up across the country to encourage people to hand in their old handsets for the Olympic effort and do their bit to reduce the amount of waste in ever-growing landfills.

According to TechRadar, 9.6kg of gold, 1210kg of silver and 700kg of copper was used to make the medals for the London 2012 Games. Considering that in 2014 Japan threw away 143kg of gold, 15666kg of silver and 1112 of copper in electronics it makes so much sense to recycle all these useful resources.

Personally, I am guilty of always buying the latest gadgets without thinking too hard about what happens the old ones and I know I’m not the only one. I actually have two old phones and an iPod that I no longer use that I intend to recycle using mobile recycling company. If I was in Japan I would definitely consider handing them over so they can be transformed into one of the 5,000 medals required.

The International Olympic Committee, mindful of the amount of resources it requires to host the Olympic Games, has a strict set of rules to promote environmental sustainability. But maybe we should be thinking about the amount of disregarded resources we have in our own homes every day, rather than just for major global events.

If you can make an Olympic medal, something that is meant to last a lifetime, in such a responsible way, what else can be made from recycled tech? There are endless possibilities from durable kitchenware to sports equipment. The silver from the inside of your iPhone could be repurposed for X-rays – there are so many uses.

Maybe we should be more like Japan when it comes to recycling. This Japanese bar,  is completely decorated with old cables and it looks incredible – even if it does make you feel like you’re inside a lung. Do our general, cultural attitudes towards recycling need to be upgraded?

There are some tech recycling solutions out there – we just have to stop being lazy and use them! PC World does have a service where you can donate all your electrical items for free or you can sell your old devices to Mazuma Mobile which is what I intend to do. There are only finite resources on this planet and if we want to keep producing innovative new products at the rate we currently are we all going to have to pitch in and recycle all our old tech.

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Lizzie Hubbard

Lizzie is an account executive at Dimoso and works on campaigns for clients in range of sectors from gaming to retail. She is a one time sailing national champion, thanks to really flukey weather.

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