Industry News

Gold from garbage: 2020 Tokyo Olympic medals to be made from e-waste

According to the organisers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, all medals for the Summer Games will be manufactured from recycled metal extracted from electronic waste.

Tokyo’s organising committee in 2017 launched a project to collect assorted e-waste – including old smartphones and laptops – from the public to collect metal for the medals. Recycled metal has also been collected from local Japanese businesses and industry.

According to a statement, enough discarded and obsolete devices have been collected across Japan over the last 18 months to make all the medals needed for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Around 47,488 tonnes of discarded devices had been collected by municipal authorities across the country and over five million used mobile phones were handed in as of October 2018.

Organisers had set a target of 2,7000kg of bronze, 30.3kg of gold and 4,100kg of silver. So far, more than 90 per cent of the target for recycled gold and 85 per cent of the target for recycled silver. The target for discarded bronze was met by June 2018.

“Thanks to the huge levels of support from the public and companies across Japan and from national and international athletes, it is estimated that the remaining amounts of metals required to manufacture all Olympic and Paralympic medals can be extracted from the devices already donated,” the organisers said.

“The project has offered the public an opportunity to play an important role in the Games’ preparations, at the same time drawing attention to the importance of sustainability under the Tokyo 2020 slogan ‘Be better, together – for the plant and the people’.”

Recycled metals have been used in previous years to make Olympic medals, including in Rio where about 30 per cent of the silver and bronze in medals came from recycled materials. The designs for the Tokyo 2020 medals will be unveiled later this year.