Winter Olympics medals contain e-waste

As with the past several Olympic games, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics have worked to incorporate elements of sustainability into this massive event. From building a framework for event sustainability to creating greener event venues like the Whistler Sliding Center for bobsled, luge, and skeleton competitions, the Vancouver Organizing Committee has worked hard to lighten the admittedly huge footprint of the upcoming games.

Many of the stories related to greening the games involve big issues: building, energy, and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions from both. But the Committee hasn’t overlooked smaller efforts, either… and this includes the medals that will be given to winners.

Metals company Teck Resources Ltd is the exclusive supplier of the metals for Vancouver medals, and a portion of the gold, silver, and copper provided have been recovered from end-of-life electronic components. The overall amount of recovered metal is relatively small — 2.05 kilograms (kg) of gold, 1,950 kg of silver and 903 kg of copper — as is the amount contained in each medal,  but, according to numbers published by the Vancouver Organizing Committee, this effort will keep 6.8 metric tons of used circuit boards out of landfills.

The medals also demonstrate that sustainability and aesthetics aren’t mutually exclusive: designed by Corinne Hunt and Omer Arbel, each is hand-cropped, and based on an orca motif. The Organizing Committee has put together a video on the making of the medals, and the Royal Canadian Mint (another partner in medal-making) has produced a wide-ranging body of content on the processes and people involved.

Heading to Vancouver for the Games? We’d love to hear about what you see in terms of sustainability at the Olympics…


Image: gold bars for Olympic medals Credit: Teck