2020 Olympic medals could be made from recycled waste

Medals for the Tokyo 2020, Olympics could be made from Japan’s stockpile of precious metal e-waste obtained from millions of discarded smartphones and computers.

Business news site Nikkei Asian Review say proposals to recycle electronic waste into gold, silver and bronze medals were discussed in a meeting between Olympics officials and representatives from government and industry.

The meeting was organised by non-profit group Genki Net for Creating a Sustainable Society, which put forward figures to show the country’s e-waste contains enough precious metals to create all the medals for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

It is believed Japan had acquired 143kg of gold, 1,566kg of silver and 1,112 tonnes of copper (which is combined with other metals, usually tin, to produce bronze) from its discarded electronics by 2014. By comparison, the London 2012 Olympics used 9.6kg of gold, 1,210kg of silver and 700kg of copper to produce all of its medals.

Partly recycled materials were used for the medals for the Rio 2016 Olympics. The silver and bronze medals were made of 30% recycled metals, while half of the plastic in the ribbons came from recycled bottles.

Nikkei Asian Review describes participants at the meeting included officials of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic organising committee, the Ministry of the Environment and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, as well as executives from mobile phone company NTT DoCoMo, precious metals company Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo and recycling companies.