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Tokyo Turns E-Waste Into Gold

As the 2020 Summer Olympics draw near, Tokyo is preparing to host the games for the first time since 1964. The Japanese capital has a long road ahead as construction continues on the New National Stadium, and they prepare to welcome millions of visitors to the city. One of the many responsibilities of the Olympic host country is to provide winning athletes with their gold, silver and bronze medals. While the metals used to manufacture these in the past have come from a variety of sources, Japan has turned to an unconventional source: e-waste. 

Nearly ninety percent of Japanese municipalities have participated in collection programs that began in April of 2017. During this two-year campaign, those living in Japan have dropped off used cell phones and other small electronic devices at certain sites. These have been collected and dismantled for precious metals, which are extracted and refined to manufacture the five thousand medals required for the Olympic games. Nearly fifty thousand tons of small electronics have been collected across the country, including approximately 5.07 million used mobile phones. In February, the program met its goals of thirty kilograms of gold, 4100 kilograms of silver, and 2700 kilograms of copper (gold medals are made from silver and only plated in gold). The program will end on March 31st, 2019.

This is the first time the awards will be made entirely from recycled materials; but one must wonder, why hasn’t this been done before? Japan’s initiative sheds light on the potential “gold mine” that exists within the millions of tons of e-waste disposed of each year worldwide. Phones, laptops, gaming consoles, and other electronics containing precious metals in their circuitry sit in landfills like a vein waiting to be struck, yet few companies take advantage of this resource. While one phone may contain only trace amounts of gold, Japan has proven that those traces add up.

The Japanese public’s enthusiasm for the initiative is not only due to the environmental benefits. Many people have expressed feelings of pride over donating their phones. The metals that once sat in their pockets will hang from the necks of the best athletes in the world. This brings a sense of public inclusion previous Olympics have lacked. In some way, every medal awarded is a win for Japan, regardless of their rank in an event.

Tokyo’s Olympics are also promoting sustainability in other ways. Recently, Japan’s Olympic team announced that it will wear uniforms made from recycled athletic textiles. Many of Japan’s top athletes have donated their old clothes for this endeavor. Both campaigns will cut costs for an expensive Olympics with a price tag once estimated at $30 billion. 

EPC appreciates Japan’s efforts to create a more sustainable and environmentally friendly Olympic games. As a company dedicated to responsible e-waste reuse and recycling, we hope this sets a precedent and encourages other nations to find more innovative ways to utilize their old devices. Perhaps Beijing could create a similar campaign for the 2022 Winter Olympics, or Paris will step up in 2024. Maybe we, the USA, can follow Japan’s example when Los Angeles hosts in 2028 for the first time in forty-four years. But whether or not our current devices are future Olympic medals, we can start looking at e-waste differently much sooner than that.

For more information about Tokyo’s e-waste recycling program, visit the link below:

https://tokyo2020.org/en/games/medals/project/

Why Is The “Right To Repair” So Important?

A few months back, many iPhone 6 users were faced with Apple shutting down their iPhones with one of their software updates. Those users had made repairs on their phones, without using an authorized repair shop. Apple’s decision caused a public outcry and eventually, they reverted these changes in their next version of iOS.

This is the same situation that happens whenever an owner of a John Deere tractor attempts to make repairs through someone who is not authorized. After fixes are made, they are still required to have a John Deere representative come out and authorize the repairs, which is another added on expense and time consumer. Many of these farmers are fighting this because it could slow down their work in the field.

If this is not something that Apple is allowed to get away with, why is John Deere getting away with it?

Whether you’re wanting to fix your iPhone or the John Deere tractor in your field, the “right to repair” is a vital factor to support your livelihood.  At least eight states have been considering laws to protect the user’s “right to repair”. This “right to repair” will cause the users to have the chance to get more life out of the device, instead of tempting the user to just toss the device into the trash. Big or small, electronic devices contribute to the 20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste that we produce every year, worldwide. When a device is harder to repair, it is more likely to be tossed into a landfill, even if there are laws that attempt to prevent this.

E-waste is extremely dangerous if it ends up in landfills. Batteries can explode and cause fires and many chemicals can get into the ground water surrounding the landfills. Instead of keeping up the habit of running to the store to buy a new device every time something breaks, we should be taking the device to the repair shop to extend the life of the item. While we are fighting for the ability to access the information to fix our devices ourselves, there are still companies like EPC, Inc. that offers service and repairs on many of your electronic devices.

EPC will always attempt to repair first, using our award-winning service department.   But if the machine is truly end of life, EPC’s Electronic Recycling Center, de-manufactures and recycles your e-waste to reduce the amount that ends up in landfills. Most electronics are 100% recyclable and EPC follows the BAN e-Steward guidelines while recycling all raw materials. We also take data security very seriously and any data recycled devices is destroyed according to the NIST 800-88 Guidelines to ensure the privacy of our customers.

Stop in to our St. Charles, MO location today to get your electronic devices repaired by our award-winning service department!