The Tokyo Olympic Medals are perhaps extra special because of the story building up to it: the unprecedented pandemic. But there’s more to the medals this year than just being one of the most coveted awards in sports. Japan has made the Tokyo Olympic Medals with a desire to help the environment as well.
The metals in the medals are from millions of Japanese mobile phones. Japan has set up a program to mint them out of only recycled materials. This also has a poetic touch. Through this, the medals will also have the memories of normal citizens whose dreams had long been lost, but they were stored in their mobile phones.
Tokyo Olympic Medals Aim To Handle E-Waste
Japan is facing a rapidly growing problem in e-waste. It is the fastest increasing waste stream in the country. It is also very toxic. However, e-waste is also known as an “urban mine”. Electronics contain several valuable metals that waste away in landfills. This is one of the most ambitious projects of retrieving and putting them to good use.
The organizing committee of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics had even encouraged citizens to donate unused gadgets and mobiles. It would both be a safe method of dealing with the e-waste from households, and also be a massive source of raw materials for the Tokyo Olympic medals. In just one year, almost half of the gold and silver amounts required and all of the bronze required had already been collected.
Japan’s program is also a ray of hope as we struggle against e-waste. The UN reported 44.7Mn tonnes worth of e-waste in 2016 alone. It has since grown by 3 to 4% annually.
The Tokyo Olympic Medals are not the first ones to be made from recycled materials. In the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, they claimed to have used about 1.5% of metals that were recycled to make the medals. In the 2016 Rio Olympics, almost one-third of the required silver came from waste solders, X-ray plates, and mirrors. Japan however is the first nation to be procuring the entire stock from materials that are recycled.