Olympic Medals Reuse E-Waste: Green is the new Gold for 2010

The Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games have added another color to its coveted gold, silver and bronze medal lineup – green!  For the first time in Olympic history, the 2010 athlete medals contain metals from end-of-life electronic waste, commonly referred to as e-waste.

Teck Resources, Ltd., a diversified mining company based in Vancouver, is the exclusive supplier of the metals used in the Olympic medals.  Components from circuit boards originally destined to landfills, have been added to all of the athletes’ medals.  In fact, 6.8 metric tonnes of circuit board from end-of-life electronics were diverted from landfills for the making of the 1,014 medals.   The company is also an Official Supporter of the Games.

Royal Canadian Mint

While Teck Resources supplied the metals, the one-of-a-kind works of art were manufactured by the Royal Canadian Mint.  The Mint has several facilities in Canada, one in Ottawa and one in Winnipeg.  The Ottawa facility produces all of Canada’s circulation coins while the Ottawa facility produces gold bouillon, commemorative and collector coins as well as medallions and medals.  The Olympic medals were manufactured at the Ottawa facility.

2010 Vancouver Winter Games Medals

After a year of planning, the manufacturing and prototype development process took more than 400 days and required over 30 complex steps to complete.  With 615 Olympic Winter Games medals and 399 medals for the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, no two medals are alike.

The designs of the medals were inspired by the athletes themselves, who shared their stories and experiences about medals from the past as well as their visions for future medals.  Each unique medal reflects the athlete’s personal story and achievement.

And for the first time, the medals include a special wavy form, representing the ocean waves, drifting snow and beautiful mountains of the Vancouver-Whistler landscape created by Canadian industrial designer Omer Arbel.

The design on the medals is based on contemporary Aboriginal artwork by Canadian artist Corrine Hunt.  The Olympic medal includes an orca whale while the Paralympic medal is based on the raven.  Because of the medals unique wavy form, the design and text had to be individually laser engraved. The name of the Games in both English and French, emblems and name of the sport are on the back side of the medals.

The Olympic medals measure 100 millimeters in diameter and are six mm thick.  The Paralympic medals are a bit smaller, 95 mm wide. While the Olympic medals are circular, the Paralympic medals are a super-ellipse shape and also include Braille on the back side.  Depending on the medal, each weighs between 500 and 576 grams making them among the heaviest athlete medals in Olympic history.

2.05 kilograms of gold, 1, 950 kg of silver and 903 kilograms of copper were used in the medals.  The specific content of e-waste material used in the medals are as follows:  Gold – 1.52 percent, Silver – 0.122 percent and Copper – 1.11 percent.

For more information on e-waste, please visit The E-Waste Market: The Good, Bad and the Ugly.

Jace is the Internet Feature Writer for Suite101 and is the Holidays and Working Moms Examiner for Examiner.com. She is a regular contributor for Energy Boom, EcoWorldly and PlanetSave. She particularly enjoys writing about unusual and downright wacky environmental stories and issues plaguing wildlife and animals.Besides writing, Jace is also passionate about online safety and issues concerning children. As an Internet Safety educator, she teaches online safety and technology to 600 elementary-aged children every week for her local school district.Jace has two children who are both in college and is also mom to a slew of pets.

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