Writer: Eveline Stella Budiman | Illustrator: Carina Audrey Budiarto | Editor: Athaya Hardono
Held a year later than scheduled, the 2020 Olympic Games have finally kicked off in Tokyo, Japan. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year's Games look a little different when compared to the previous years. Stadiums that were once filled with screaming supporters are now dead quiet as the whoops and hollers are now done at home. But that is not the only difference we noticed. This year, the organizers of the Tokyo Games have sought to become the most sustainable Olympic Games ever. True to its words, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are using sustainable materials in every single facet of the event: making recyclable cardboard beds for athletes to sleep on, having its medals be made out of electronic waste, and transporting athletes throughout the Olympic Village with its emission-free electric vehicles. In this article, we are going to discuss six sustainable initiatives that the Tokyo Games have taken to fulfill its sustainability goals.
Electronic Waste to Medals
The medals that were placed around the athletes' necks are not the usual medals that we have grown accustomed to — they were all made using precious metals recovered from approximately 6.2 million discarded electronic devices. This initiative capitalized on the fact that billions worth of precious metals found in gadgets get discarded each year due to the lack of recycling effort. Tokyo Olympics' recycling efforts produced a total of 32 kilograms of gold, 3.500 kilograms of silver, and 2.200 kilograms of bronze that were eventually used to make 5.000 medals.
Sleeping on Cardboard Beds
Yes, you read that correctly. In this year's Olympics, athletes will have to sleep on beds made from cardboard to help fulfill Tokyo's aim of cutting down waste. Despite having been made from cardboards, these beds are designed to withstand weights up to 200 kilograms and are specifically made so that it could be recycled into paper products when no longer used.
From Household Waste to the Games' Podiums
The 98 victory ceremony podiums where athletes will receive their medals were entirely made from recycled plastic waste from the ocean as well as those that were donated by the public. This is made possible by the collaboration between the United Nations and Tokyo 2020 in creating the "Recycled Plastic Victory Ceremony Podium Project", in which people were encouraged to contribute their household plastic packaging to be recycled and turned into the winners' podiums. Once the Games have ended, these plastic podiums will then be used for educational purposes or recycled to make bottles at Procter & Gamble.
This year's Olympic Games were kick-started with the lighting of a torch that was made from recycled aluminium. These aluminium were taken from the temporary housing that were used after the Fukushima disaster back in the year 2011. Aside from having a cherry blossom motif as its design, both the relay torches as well as the cauldron holding the Olympic flame also caught the public's attention as they were all fuelled by hydrogen instead of the usual fossil gas.
Self-driving Electric Cars
One of Tokyo Olympics' main sponsors, Toyota, specially produced e-Palette autonomous vehicles that are powered by rechargeable lithium-ion battery packs. Boasting a cruising range of up to 90 miles at a speed of about 20mph, these all-electric vehicles can ferry up to 20 people or 4 wheelchairs per run and are used to transport athletes and staff from the Olympic village to venues and back.
Many have overlooked the fact that quite a lot of the outfits worn by the officials and athletes were made out of plastic. For instance, the red and white set worn by the torchbearers were all made using polyester derived from recycled Coca-Cola plastic bottles. Nike SB, in collaboration with a Dutch artist Piet Parra, also contributed to making Tokyo's green goals a reality by designing jerseys that are made from recycled polyester waste for the skateboarding athletes.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics has a sustainability concept and themes, with its slogan saying "Be better, together - For the planet and the people." Since the very start of the Games, Tokyo has considered sustainability as its top priority, in which they did manage to follow the plan through. The six aforementioned green initiatives are just a few of many other sustainable measures that the organizers have implemented. For so many years, the Olympics have been known for its environmental damage, therefore making these seemingly small green efforts feel like a breath of fresh air.