There’s less than a year until the Tokyo Olympics and preparations are well underway. Stadiums are being constructed, residences built, and schedules planned. Athletes who have sacrificed so much are preparing to compete for gold, silver, and bronze medals. But the medals at the 2020 games will signify so much more than just victory. This time around, they’re a statement of sustainability and environmental awareness because they are made out of e-waste

That’s right. The medals that will soon rest upon the most physically gifted athletes on the planet were once someone’s trash. The Tokyo Olympic Committee is aiming to make these the most environmentally friendly and sustainable Olympics in history. 

“Be better, together – for the planet and the people.” – Tokyo Olympic Theme

The E-Waste Medals

The Olympic medals made from e-waste. Credit: Courtesy Tokyo 2020

Over the past two years, Japan has been collecting old consumer electronics with a plan to collect enough gold, silver, and bronze to mould every medal. All of the 5,000 medals for the 2020 Games are made entirely of e-waste. Quite an amazing feat of urban mining and sustainability.

Yellow donation boxes were placed around Japan. They were located in post offices, street corners, and even inside certain stores. Over 90% of Japan’s local authorities participated in the project including 1,300 educational institutions and 2,100 electronic retailers across the country. 

How Much Was Collected?

In total, 78,985 tons of e-waste was collected. This included 6.21 million used phones, in addition to digital cameras, laptops, and video game systems. All of these were dismantled and broken down through sustainable best practices performed with workers in mind. 

This is quite different from how the majority of e-waste is currently recycled.

By the time the collection drive closed in March 2019, the final goal of 30.3kg of gold, 4,100kg of silver, and 2,700kg of bronze had been met. 

Recovering Metals With Sepro Urban Mining

Dismantling and recovering precious metals from e-waste is no easy task. This is especially true when you want to maximize recovery of fine particles like gold. That’s why we’ve worked with electronic recyclers to develop a safe process to disassemble electronics. We’ve also developed a system to ensure recyclers are recovering the most gold possible from e-waste sources. If you’re an e-waste recycler looking to follow Japan’s sustainable example, contact Sepro Urban Mining today.