With the Olympic and Paralympic Games now over for three years (rather than the usual four – thanks, Covid), and the UK having bagged a whopping 189 medals across these intense weeks of competition, it will be old phones, not precious metals, coming back from Tokyo with our athletes.
That’s right: this year, it’s goodbye to just the usual real gold, silver and bronze and hello to shiny new medals made from 78,985 tonnes of recycled old phones and other electronic devices. Part of the Games’ sustainability drive, it’s an unexpected and heartening development to see something so coveted, so precious, made from upcycled waste that would otherwise have ended up in landfill.
It’s hard to imagine a better way to shake the stigma that’s still attached to second-hand and recycled products - yet to some, there are still negative connotations. As our athletes held up their medals for the world to see, kissing them as they were snapped by a plethora of telephoto lenses and beamed to our screens, they sent they sent a powerful message about the value of waste and the opportunities for its reinvention.
For us, it’s also plain to see the potential that could lie tucked away in the cupboards and drawers around our homes. How many of us have old phones and electronic devices cluttering up our drawers, not used since the day we upgraded them? If the Olympic medals have taught us anything, it’s that second hand doesn’t mean second best - so why not see what you could do with the unwanted objects lying around your home? It’s time to reset the social norms.