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电子垃圾:令人惊讶的东京奥运奖牌来源

The surprising source of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic medals
电子垃圾:令人惊讶的东京奥运奖牌来源

What goes into an Olympic medal? A digital picture of a nine-year old girl smiling by a pool after she won her first regional tournament. That late-night chat with Sebastian, the basketball coach, to schedule the next day’s training. Multiple alarms at 4:15, 4:20, 4:25… so the snooze button will not prevent a young surfer from riding her best wave at sunrise, when the tide is right. A call from dad: “You’ll do great, love,” he says.

是什么造就了一枚奥运奖牌?一张数码照片里,一个9岁的女孩赢得了她的第一个区域性锦标赛冠军后在泳池边微笑。深夜和篮球教练塞巴斯蒂安(Sebastian)谈话,安排第二天的训练。多次闹铃分别被设定在凌晨4:15、4:20、4:25……这样闹钟的贪睡按键就不会阻止一个年轻的冲浪者在日出潮汐最适合冲浪的时刻下海练习。爸爸打来电话说:“你一定会有很棒的表现,爸爸爱你。”

Success probably carries these connotations and many more if you are a professional athlete. For champions at the Olympic and Paralympics Games at Tokyo in 2020, however, the memories stored in their medals will not only be their own.

成功可能承载了训练的艰辛和亲人的关怀鼓励,如果你是一个职业运动员,承载的会更多。然而对于2020年东京奥运会和残奥会的奖牌得主来说,他们的奖牌所承载的记忆将不仅仅属于他们自己而已。

The metal hanging from their neck will come from mobile phones used by millions of Japanese, as part of the host country’s program to use only recycled materials in the minting process. The Tokyo organising committee aims to produce their 5,000 medals with gold, silver and bronze retrieved from electronic waste.

挂在他们脖子上的金属奖牌将来自几百万日本人使用过的手机。东京奥运会的东道国计划将在此届奥运尽量使用循环再利用材料,以废弃手机铸造奖牌是该计划的一部分。东京奥运组委会的目标是用从电子垃圾中回收的黄金、银和铜来制造5000枚奖牌。

This way, the nine-year old might be a boy from Osaka who never reached pro even if the winner is a 20-year old Ukrainian table tennis player. The basketballer might be an amateur from Kobe who pays his bills as a plumber. The alarms might have woken up a Tokyo accountant when she visited Costa Rica to surf several years ago. The dad could be, of course, any dad.

这样一来,即使冠军是一位20岁的乌克兰乒乓球运动员,但奖牌也许是来自大阪(Osaka)一位从未达到专业水平的9岁小男孩,获奖的篮球运动员其奖牌可能是一个来自神户(Kobe)的篮球爱好者,职业水管工。闹钟叫醒的也许是一名东京的会计师,几年前她去哥斯达黎加(Costa Rica)旅游时体验了冲浪。当然,那位父亲可能是任何一位父亲。

All these memories, once stored in smartphones and other handheld devices, would take the round glossy shape of an Olympic medal, one of the most coveted prizes in sport.

所有这些记忆,曾经被存储在智能手机和其他手持设备中,最后都将成为一枚圆形有光泽的奥运奖牌,体育界最梦寐以求的奖项之一。

Electronic waste (e-waste), discarded products with a battery or a plug, is the fastest growing part of the world's domestic waste stream, and a highly toxic one, but it is also considered an ‘urban mine’, a gold vein hidden in plain sight, as electronics contain profitable metals waiting to be retrieved.

电子垃圾,即带电池或电源插头的产品,是世界上生活垃圾中增长最快的一部分,而且含有很高的毒性,但它也被认为是“城市矿山”,一座人们视而不见的金矿,因为电子设备包含有可以回收利用的有价值金属。

The Tokyo 2020 organising committee saw this opportunity and invited citizens to donate their mobiles and other gadgets. This way, households dispose their obsolete or forgotten electronics safely and medal manufacturers get a steady supply of resources.

2020年东京奥运组委会看到了这个机会,呼吁市民捐赠手机和其他设备。如此,家家户户可以安全处理废弃的或被遗忘的电子设备,奖牌制造商则获得稳定供应的资源。

In little more than a year since the project’s launch last April, the organisers have retrieved 16.5kg (36.3lbs) of gold (54.5% of the 30.3kg  target) and 1,800kg (3,960lbs) of silver (43.9% of the targeted amount of 4,100kg or 9,020lbs ). The target for bronze, 2,700kg (5,940lbs) has already been reached. “This initiative represents an opportunity for people from all over the country to participate in the Tokyo 2020 Games,” Masa Takaya, a Tokyo 2020 spokesperson, tells BBC Future in an email statement.

这个项目从2017年4月启动以来,组织者已经回收了16.5公斤的黄金(目标为30.3公斤,已经达成54.5%)和1800公斤的银(目标为4100公斤,已经达成43.9%)。而铜的回收目标2700公斤,已经达成。“这一行动标志着来自全国各地的人们都有机会参与2020年东京奥运会,”2020年东京奥运会发言人高谷(Masa Takaya)在一封电子邮件声明中如此告诉BBC未来栏目。

The project also provides hope in our struggle with e-waste. Our addiction to electronics risks drowning our societies in discarded gadgets. UN data says that the world generated 44.7 million tonnes of e-waste in 2016, a figure that grows between 3 and 4% yearly.

该项目也为我们和电子垃圾的斗争带来了希望。我们对电子产品的沉迷,有可能使我们的社会将被废弃的电子产品所淹没。联合国的数据表明,2016年全球产生的电子垃圾高达4470万吨,这个数字并每年增长3%-4%。

If you load all that waste into 18-wheel 40-tonne trucks, you could fill around 1.23 million of them, enough to pack a two-lane street between Paris and Singapore. By 2021, that figure could be more than 52 million tonnes.

如果你用载重40吨的18轮卡车来装载这些垃圾,你能装满123万辆,足够排满一条从巴黎一直延伸到新加坡的双车道。到2021年,这一数字可能会超过5200万吨。

Most of this waste never reaches collection centres, either in Japan or elsewhere. A UN report estimates that only 20% of discarded electronics is recycled; the rest is either dumped in landfills, passed along country lines to be reused (usually from richer countries to those less developed ) or forgotten in our drawers.

不论是在日本或其他地方,大部分的电子垃圾从来没有抵达过回收中心。联合国的一份报告估计,只有20%的废弃电子设备被回收利用,其余的要么是被倾倒在垃圾填埋场,沿着国境线运到可被重复利用的国家,通常是从富裕国家流入欠发达国家,要么在我们的抽屉里被遗忘。

This is not only foolish from an ecological standpoint, as toxic materials found in electronics pollute our soil and water if they are not treated properly, but it looks like a missed chance for countries with few mines of their own.

从生态的角度看,这不仅是愚蠢的,因为电子产品中的有毒物质如果不妥善处理,会污染我们的土壤和水,而且对于那些矿产资源有限的国家来说,这似乎是一个错过的机会。

“Japan is a resource-poor country and they have no other opportunity to retrieve valuable and scarce resources than by harvesting from their waste,” says Ruediger Kuehr, an e-waste expert at the UN University and co-author of the UN report. In some occasions, the value of one tonne of materials extracted from urban mining is one hundred times higher than the same tonne from traditional ore extraction, says Maria Holuszko, assistant professor at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

联合国大学(UN University)的电子垃圾专家,同时也是上述联合国报告的合著者库尔(Ruediger Kuehr)说:“日本是一个资源贫乏的国家,除了在自己的垃圾中收获资源,他们没有其他机会获取有价值的稀缺资源。”英属哥伦比亚大学(UBC, University of British Columbia)的助理教授赫鲁兹科(Maria Holuszko)说,在某些情况下,从城市采矿中提取的一吨材料的价值,是从传统矿石开采等量材料价值的100倍。

While you can get three or four grams of gold for each tonne of ore extracted from a mine, one tonne of mobile phones can provide up to 350g.

从矿山中开采出的矿石里,每吨可以提取出3到4克黄金,而1吨手机则可以提供多达350克黄金。

This not only deals with the e-waste, but it also means less metal extraction from mines. Holuszko estimates that urban mining could meet between 25 and 30% of the global demand for gold.

这不仅可以善用电子垃圾,也意味着可以减少采矿。赫鲁兹科预计,城市采矿可以满足全球25-30%的黄金需求。

“Statistics tell you right away that there is a business opportunity,” says Holuszko, who co-founded UBC’s Urban Mining Innovation Centre.

赫鲁兹科说:“统计数据马上告诉你,这是一个商业机遇。”赫鲁兹科也是英属哥伦比亚大学城市采矿创新中心(Urban Mining Innovation Centre)的联合创办人。

This is not the first time Olympic medals will contain recycled materials. Almost 30% of the silver used for Rio 2016 came from leftover mirrors, waste solders and X-ray plates and 40% of their copper, used for the bronze medals, came from mint waste. The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics symbolically used around 1.5% of recycled metals, although they came from an urban mine in Belgium.

这不是奥运会奖牌第一次含有回收材料。2016年里约奥运会(Rio 2016)银牌将近30%的银来自废弃的镜子、焊料和X光片,制造铜牌的40%的铜来自铸币厂的废料。2010年温哥华冬季奥运会象征性地使用了大约1.5%的回收再利用金属,虽然是来自比利时的一个城市矿。

Tokyo 2020’s effort is unique in two regards. It aims to get 100% of the metals from recycled material and it only accepts e-waste from Japanese households.

2020年东京奥运会废物利用的努力在两个方面是独一无二的。一是争取100%从回收再利用材料中得到金属,二是只接受来自日本家庭的电子垃圾。

Even with these limitations, the project has taken off. By June 2018, telecom shops had collected 4.32 million used mobile phones donated by the public, while municipal authorities received around 34,000 tonnes of small electronic devices.

即使有这些限制,该项目已经初见成效。截至2018年6月,电信商店已经收集了432万部公众捐赠的旧手机,而市政当局收到了约34,000吨的小型电子设备。
 

一枚奥运会金牌重约500克,必须包含至少6克黄金

“I brought five old phones that I wasn’t using,” says an elderly Japanese woman in a video produced by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “It’s nice to feel I’m a part of the Games like this.”

一位上了年纪的日本妇女在日本外务省(Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs)制作的一段视频中说:“我带来了五部我已经不用的旧手机,这样我觉得自己也参与了奥运会,这种感觉很好。”

From 35 to 40 mobile phones you could salvage around one gram of gold, which is one-sixth of the 6g the International Olympic Committee insist on for each of the gold medals. (The remaining metal in the most prestigious award is, in fact, silver.)

从35-40部手机中就可以提取约1克黄金,是奥运金牌黄金含量的1/6。国际奥林匹克委员会坚持要求每块金牌的黄金含量要达到6克。(奥运会至尊的金牌,其黄金含量只有6克,其余金属实际是银。)

The quest to get those grams has received plenty of attention, with previous medallists donating their old gadgets and even former British Foreign Minister, Boris Johnson, pitching in when he visited Tokyo in 2017.

对贵重金属回收利用的努力已经收获了大量关注,之前的奖牌获得者也开始捐赠他们的旧电子设备,甚至英国首相约翰逊2017年访问东京时也加入进来。

Despite this, the medal project’s success will likely be symbolic – and it will only address one of the games’ enormous sustainability challenges.

尽管如此,奖牌项目的成功可能是象征性的,只会解决奥运会巨大的可持续性挑战之一。

The electronics collected so far represent less than 3% of Japan’s yearly e-waste output, which the UN estimates at around two million tonnes.  Another issue to consider is the fate of the ‘non-metal part’, which comprises pretty much everything beyond the enticing couple of grams of gold, palladium or other valuable metals in each device. “If we just recover metals and dump the rest into a landfill, they can cause a lot of pollution,” says Holuszko, whose work at UBC focuses partly on finding a way to fully-recycle a smartphone.

到目前为止收集到的电子设备还不到日本每年电子垃圾产生量的3%,联合国估计日本每年产生的电子垃圾约为200万吨。还要考虑的另一个问题是“非金属部分”的命运,包括了每台设备中诱人的几克黄金、钯等贵重金属之外几乎所有的东西。赫鲁兹科说:“如果我们只是回收利用金属,把剩下东西的丢到垃圾填埋场,仍然可以造成很大的污染。”赫鲁兹科在英属哥伦比亚大学工作,其中一个任务就是找到智能手机完全循环再利用的方法。

The Tokyo 2020 organising committee is only receiving gold, silver and bronze (a metallic alloy of copper and zinc) from its recycling partners, so the fate of the non-metal part is unclear even to them. The Games’ spokesperson said they had “heard that some companies are recycling the remaining elements using regular processing methods” but could provide no assurances.

2020年东京奥运组委会目前只从回收电子垃圾合作者那里接受黄金、银和青铜(一种铜锌合金),所以非金属部分如何处理对他们而言也是未知的。奥运会发言人称他们已经“听说一些公司正在使用常规处理方式回收利用剩余的部分”,但无法提供保证。

The questions pile-up as we look into what the future looks like in our increasingly electrified societies. Kuehr estimates that global e-waste output could easily double to 80 million tonnes within a few decades.

在我们展望我们日益电气化社会的未来时,电子垃圾问题正越来越严重。库尔预计,全球电子垃圾产量可能很容易在几十年内翻倍,达到8000万吨。

We should change how we understand electronics, he says. A way out is to stop purchasing and owning devices, not as analogue hermits but as digital nomads. “Instead of buying the phone itself, why don’t we consider buying the services they provide?” he asks.

他说,我们应该改变我们对电子产品的理解。一种出路是停止购买和拥有设备,不是要我們模仿隐士,而是當数字化的游牧民。他问道:“我们为什么要去购买手机,而不是去考虑购买他们提供的服务呢?”

The system would look a lot like leasing, with the big difference that you never get to own the product. Apple or Samsung would provide the service of ‘mobile communications’ or ‘electronic home dishwashing’ and customers would pay for that. If a device breaks, companies would get you a replacement while they repair it. When gadgets finally reach the end of their lives, the businesses who own them would ideally feed their materials back into the production process.

库尔设想的这种体系看起来很像租赁,最大的区别在于你从未拥有这个产品。按此设想,苹果(Apple)或三星(Samsung)将提供“移动通信”或“电子家用洗碗”的服务,客户将为此支付费用。如果一台设备坏了,公司会在维修期间帮你更换一台。当设备使用寿命完結时,拥有设备的公司可将其以最合适的办法回收到生产流程。

There are dozens of challenges that would need to be overcome, but also around 80 million tonnes of waste that are calling for an ambitious solution. Perhaps the change could start in Japan itself, home of electronic giants like Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Panasonic and Sony, says Kuehr, who did his post doctorate in Tokyo.

人类还有很多很多的挑战需要克服,但约8000万吨的电子垃圾也需要一个雄心勃勃的解决方案。库尔说,也许变化可能从日本自身开始,这里是诸如日立(Hitachi)、三菱(Mitsubishi)、松下(Panasonic)和索尼(Sony)这样电子巨头的故乡。库尔在东京完成了博士后学习。

That is, however, an ambition that looks beyond the scope of the Tokyo 2020 Medals Project and would likely require a robust international strategy. For now, 5,000 medals made with recycled metals looks like a decent place to begin with.

然而,这个雄心壮志看起来超出了2020年东京奥运会奖牌项目的范围,可能需要一个强有力的国际战略。目前为止,5000枚由回收金属制成的奖牌看起来是一个不错的开始。

“I’m quite happy to see that Japan is providing proof that urban mining is feasible,” says UBC’s Holuszko.

英属哥伦比亚大学的赫鲁兹科说:“我很高兴看到日本正在证明,城市采矿是可行的。”
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