Different kinds of threats to the environment have surfaced that did not use to exist, hundred years back. For instance, the saying about technology being a double-edged sword. The earth now faces burgeoning waste from electronic gadgets bought and replaced without a second thought by the larger proportion of the world population for the sake of being up-to-date. In America, such activity generates 70% of total toxic waste. Everybody is aware enough of the hazards this entail. Yet, for the most part, they choose not to act. Because, procrastination is much easier than taking action. Not the Japs! It is their story that I seek to pitch today.

July 2020 and all the world’s eyes will be locked on Tokyo. One year from now, the Japanese capital will host the Summer Olympics- the Greatest Show on Earth. Every host city aspires to attract attention and decks itself with extravagance. The Japanese have however already managed to catch the world’s fancy- by “making a statement on sustainability”; they are recycling old electronics and forging Olympic medals out of them! In early 2017, the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games(TOCOG) conceived the “Tokyo 2020 Medal Project” under the theme “Be better, together- for the planet and the planet”, turned it into an official “Tokyo 2020 Nationwide Participation Programme” (by their own words) and set about collecting used electronic devices from their compatriots from April 1,2017 to March 31,2019. Signature yellow donation boxes were placed in post offices and other strategic places all over the country in a bid to make this edition of the Olympics the most sustainable and environmentally friendly ever. The process in brief then goes like this- the collected devices are first classified, smelted and dismantled. Then, gold is extracted from them, which undergoes a refining process. What remains at last, is pure gold. This is the first time that medals are being carvedtentirely out of recycled electronic waste. Perhaps if one approached all difficulties with a little innovativeness of this kind, hope for the world could be rekindled?

As statistics stand, 32 kg of gold, 3,500 kg of silver and 2,200 kg of bronze were recovered from 78,985 tons of electronic devices, which included 6.21 million old mobile phones. Over 90% of Japanese cities, towns and villages participated in the project. To mark the one year countdown to the opening ceremony of the Games, the medal designs were unveiled on July 24. They reflect patterns of light which symbolise the energy of the athletes and supporters. Trust the Japanese to find meaning in everything!

When it comes to championing the cause of our environment, this country- peopled by famously resourceful citizens- is not chilling out. Nor should you, as the TOCOG theme goes- “…for the planet and the people”.


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