The organizers of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games announced that they will be using waste from old electronics such as phones and laptops. 47000 tons will be used in addition to 5 million used phones to create the super limited edition trophies for the top athletes. While it won't eliminate electronic waste by any means, it's symbolic that the Olympics are pushing a more eco-friendly message to people around the world.
The 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil awarded 973 medals that reflected on the medal table. This is a small gain over the 959 medals award in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, England. This also doesn't count the situation where 1 medal on the official medal table may actually have 10 or more medals physically awarded. For example, the 2016 USA Basketball team that won gold had 12 members receive a medal, but only 1 counted on the official table (the coaches and staff do not get a medal). At most the Tokyo Summer Olympics may award 1100 or so medals which hardly would put a dent in the 41.8 million tons of e-waste produced (as of a 2014 report).
I really wish that we could eliminate e-waste in totality, or at least have an easier way to get them recycled. Once or twice a year, I get a notice on my front door from my waste management company that says they are conducting a free e-recycle collection. This usually means that we can put out our old TVs or stereo equipment and they will come collect it from the curb free-of-charge. This is a great service, but unfortunately I don't buy stuff according to their e-recycle schedule.
Some ways that I've been able to cut the e-waste include:
- Trading up my smart phone for the next model (this usually is conducted with your phone carrier or Apple Store if you have an iPhone)
- Sell your old electronics on Craigslist or eBay or OfferUp. If you have the time and are willing to deal with hardcore email or text message negotiations then at least you know your old laptop is getting a second life with somebody down the street.
- Check to see if the store you purchased your electronics supports e-waste recycling. I was cleaning out an old room where I had a Sony 32" CRT television that weighed about 100 pounds. It was huge and heavy! Goodwill didn't take it, but because I bought it from Best Buy in the 1990s and they coincidentally have a recycle program, I dropped it off there with no questions asked. I didn't even give them the remote (which the sofa probably swallowed up a long time ago).
- Goodwill or The Salvation Army may take your old electronics. I did try to give them my Sony 32" CRT television, but they quickly said "no". If you succeed, then you may be able to get a nice tax deduction.
- Lastly, a friend or close relative may want that old iPad or 1990's laptop. Retro is always in style, so hand your electronics down to one of your friends or relatives. They may be able to squeeze another year out of it playing Angry Birds or Doom.
How have you been handling old electronic waste? I'd love to find new ways to repurpose them.
Image of Olympic Medal is original. It is owned by and has a copyright for Eiffel Towel.