E-Waste Finds New Life in Medals for 2010 Winter Olympics

E-Waste Finds New Life in Medals for 2010 Winter Olympics

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Canada, February 11, 2010 (ENS) – The medals that will honor winning athletes at the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver will be the first in history to contain gold, silver and copper recovered from end-of-life electronics otherwise destined for the landfill.

Teck Resources, a mining and metals company based in Vancouver, supplied all the metals used in the production of the more than 1,000 medals to be awarded at the Vancouver Games, which start Friday with the opening ceremony.

The medals that will be awarded at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games designed by Corrine Hunt and Omer Arbel (Photo courtesy Royal Canadian Mint)

“Our employees worldwide are honored to supply the metals for the medals that will be cherished by the world’s best winter athletes in 2010,” said Teck’s President and CEO Don Lindsay. “We’re also excited that these medals will contain recycled metal recovered from end-of-life electronics, consistent with the sustainability philosophy of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

While representing an historic first, the recovered metals make up only a small percentage of the 2.05 kilograms of gold, 1,950 kg of silver and 903 kg of copper used to make the medals, most of which was sourced from Teck operations around the world.

The content of recovered metal from the e-waste material in the specific metals is: gold: 1.52 percent; silver: 0.122 percent; and copper: 1.11 percent.

The recovered gold, silver and copper used in the medals came from 6.8 metric tonnes of electronics circuit boards collected and processed at Teck’s Trail, BC facility and the Umicore facilities in Belgium. Developed in consultation with the BC Ministry of the Environment, Teck says its electronics recycling process meets the exacting environmental standards needed for the responsible processing of e-waste.

The electronic components were shredded, separated, and heated to recover the metals, which were then combined with the mined metal from other Teck sources for production of the medals.

The Royal Canadian Mint produced all of the 615 Olympic medals and 399 Paralympic medals between July and November 2009.

An Olympic gold medal for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. (Photo courtesy Royal Canadian Mint)

Designed by Corrine Hunt, a Canadian designer and artist of Komoyue and Tlingit heritage based in Vancouver, each of the medals is a unique hand-cropped section two large abstract artworks – an orca whale for the Olympic medals and a raven for the Paralympic medals – making every medal one-of-a-kind.

Each medal is marked with its own signature elements of the orca and raven artwork, such as the suggestion of the orca’s eye, the curve of its dorsal fin, or the contours of the raven’s wing.

A silk scarf printed with the master artwork will be presented to each Olympian or Paralympian with his or her medal. The scarf enables the winners to see how their medals connect with those awarded to other athletes at the Games to make the whole design.

Hunt said, “The orca is a beautiful creature that is strong but also lives within a community. I felt the Olympic Games are a community, too. The athletes may be training but they’re always somehow connected to their community, to their teammates, or to their country. The orca is a creature that has wonderful capabilities but can’t really survive without its pod.”

“My design for the Paralympic medal – a raven on a totem rising – is close to my heart and in honor of my uncle who is a paraplegic. The raven is a creature that is all things and I think Paralympic athletes have that in them. They’re sometimes given challenges and they rise above them and the raven does the same. I think the creativity of the raven gives us hope – to accept when things don’t work out and really rejoice when they do.”

A Paralympic gold medal for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. (Photo courtesy Royal Canadian Mint)

Canadian industrial designer and architect Omer Arbel, also of Vancouver, created the innovative undulating design of the medals, which were struck nine times each to achieve the distinctive look as part of the 30-step medal fabrication process.

The Vancouver Organizing Committee, VANOC, received 48 medal design ideas from across Canada and around the world after issuing a request for proposals in December 2007.

The organizing committee asked Hunt and Arbel to join their creative talents together on the medals project after they submitted separate design proposals that both contained compelling elements.

“The ultimate symbol of a dream come true for an athlete is an Olympic or Paralympic medal,” saidd VANOC’s Chief Executive Officer John Furlong. “They are the reward for years of effort and sacrifice on the part of the athlete and have the power to inspire children and lift the spirits of an entire country.”

“This two-year project has been a truly collaborative effort between inspired designers, artists and craftsmen who dedicated themselves to the challenge of finding beautiful, uniquely Canadian designs to honor the medallists and tell the stories of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games,” Furlong said.

The obverse side of the medals is embossed with the Olympic Rings or Paralympic agitos and the hand-cropped section of the orca or raven design is lasered onto the metal.

On the reverse side, the medals contain the official names of the Games in English and French, the official languages of Canada and the Olympic Movement, as well as Vancouver 2010’s distinctive emblems and the name of the sport and the event the medal was awarded in. On the Paralympic medals, braille is also used.

The medals were designed with direct input from Olympic and Paralympic athletes who shared their experiences about medals they won at past Games and what they would like to see in future medals.

Daniel Wesley, a five-time Paralympian and 12-time medallist for Canada in alpine skiing and wheelchair racing at the Summer and Winter Games, said, “Every one of my medals has meaning and motivation because of the memories attached to them and the people I’ve been able to share them with, from family and friends to the crowds in the stadiums on those days.”

“The 2010 Paralympic medals, and the care taken by the design team to ensure they’re equal in size to the Olympic medals yet still unique in their artwork and shape, demonstrates to me, the public and other Paralympians how greatly our accomplishments and stories are valued,” said Wesley.

Calling the 2010 Olympic medals “beautiful,” Jill Bakken, an Olympic gold medallist for the United States in bobsleigh at the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games, said a “medal is a cherished possession for every athlete.”

“It’s what we all strive for when we train and compete,” she said. “To feel it being placed around your neck on the podium or seeing children’s eyes light up when you show it to them are experiences that defy words.”

A new life indeed for the precious metals in obsolete circuit boards.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.

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