“When Olympic athletes take the medal stand at this month’s XXI Winter Games, they’ll be decked out in a completely different kind of hardware: the recycled metals from end-of-life electronics. Canadian mining company Teck Resources was able to harvest the gold, silver, and bronze from the circuit boards of old computers and have it melted down and cast back into what are now the Olympic medals. Motherboard heads to Vancouver to check out the making of the distinctive medals and interview the designers: Omer Arbel, an internationally acclaimed architect and industrial designer, and Corrine Hunt, a First Nations artist from the Raven Gwa’waina clan, of the Kwakwaka’wakw village on Vancouver Island.
The symbolism isn’t just fitting with the Olympics’ increasing moves toward sustainability; it’s a counterpoint to both the dangers of electronic waste and the heavy environmental impact that Canadian mining companies have had on landscapes in Canada and across the world. Though Teck appears to be making serious efforts to clean up its act, resource extraction is a dark stain on the country’s environmental record (in the case of the tar sands, the stain is very literal).
But these recycled medals are a healthy reminder that we don’t need to pull resources out of the ground, and that the 11,000 computers we throw out every day in the United States alone are packed with valuable material that can be reused rather than left to rot the earth in e-waste dumps. It’s an idea that deserves a medal of its own.”