For the first time in history, winners of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games, beginning Friday, July 23, 2021, will be awarded gold, silver, and bronze medals made entirely out of consumer’s recycled electronics.
The Tokyo Organizing Committee announced this effort, named the Tokyo 2020 Metal Project, in February 2017 and asked the Japanese public to donate their old phones, cameras, digital games, and laptops. The committee placed electronic drop-off boxes in post offices and on street corners all across Japan. They also partnered with 2,400 electronic stores in order to collect as many electronics as possible. The success of the project is clear with the sheer number of donated electronics: 158 million pounds of electronics, reduced to about 7,700 pounds of silver, 4,850 pounds of bronze, and 71 pounds of gold. Highly-trained contractors extracted the gold, silver, and bronze from the electronics and then classified, dismantled, and melted them down, turning them into medals.
The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver were the first Olympic games to create medals from recycled electronics, with each medal containing about 1% of recycled material. The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio followed suit, with an estimated 30% of silver and bronze medals originating from recycled materials.
However, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics mark the first time that the medals are entirely made out of recycled materials, and the first time the country’s citizens were directly involved in donating the devices for the medals.
For information about what you can do to help, check out what you need to know about recycled electronics.