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Japan's Medal Project: A Smart E-waste Solution That Turns Old Phones Into Olympic Medals?Find Out!

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Japan is a nation of innovations. One man's trash is another man?s treasure is a principle that the country has taken seriously. This is exactly why the host of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will create medals out of E-waste.

What is E-waste?

Any appliance that runs with the support of electricity or battery circuit and is not usable anymore, can be called as e-waste. E-waste, waste from dumped electronics is the fastest growing waste problem across the world. According to a U.N report, 45 million tons of electronics were thrown out worldwide in 2016. Only 20% of this global waste is recycled. This waste if not treated properly, only ends up polluting land-fills with lead, zinc, and carbon and non-biodegradable plastic.

What is the Medal Project?

The Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games decided to innovatively take up the endeavor to convert the metal extracts from e-waste into Olympic medals. This project is called the Medal Project.

The Japanese population is requested to collect their unusable consumer electronics, such as phones, laptops, and tablets on pick-up points. The aim is to create approximately 5,000 gold, silver and bronze medals from recycled e-waste.

Donations for the Medal Project have already begun in October of 2018 with a goal of 2,700 kgs of bronze, 30.3 kgs of gold and 4,100.

How Does This Work?

  • Picking Shed: E-waste collected from across the country is sent to this picking shed. When the e-waste items arrive at the recycling plants, the first step involves sorting all the items manually. Batteries are removed for quality check.
  • Disassembly: After sorting the second step involves a serious labor-intensive process of manual dismantling. The e-waste items are taken apart to retrieve all the parts and then categorized into core materials and components. The dismantled items are then separated into various categories into parts that can be re-used or still continue the recycling processes.
  • The First Size Reduction Process: All items that cannot be dismantled efficiently are shredded together with the other dismantled parts to pieces less than 2 inches in diameter. It is done in preparation for further categorization of the finer e-waste pieces.
  • The Second Size Reduction Process: The finer e-waste particles are then evenly spread out through an automated shaking process on a conveyor belt. The well spread out e-waste pieces are then broken down further. At this stage, any dust is extracted and discarded in a way that does not degrade the environmentally.
  • Over-Band Magnet: At this step, an over-band magnet is used to remove all the magnetic materials including steel and iron from the e-waste debris.
  • Non-metallic and Metallic Components Separation: At this step, separation of metals and non-metallic components. Copper, aluminium, and brass are separated from the debris to only leave behind non-metallic materials. This metal goes in the account for ?The Medal Project?
  • Water Separation: As the last step, plastic content is separated from the glass by the use of water. One separated, all the materials retrieved can then be raw materials for re-use.

This innovative process has not only channelized the e-waste into the productive reduce-reuse-recycle process, but it has also averted a lot of environmental damage.



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