2020 Tokyo Olympics will recycle e-waste to make medals

For the first time in the history of Olympics, medals will be made from metal recovered from old cell phones and laptops

Published: Monday 18 February 2019

The 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games in Tokyo will promote recycling and reuse of waste. For the first time in the history of the Olympic games, the medals that will be awarded will be made from metal recovered from old cell phones and laptops. In 2017, the organising committee for the games initiated a project to collect old cell phones and laptops from these metals could be recovered.

For this project to be successful, the organisers would have to collect 30.3 kg of gold, 4100 kg of silver and 2700 kg of bronze. The organising committee has nearly met its targets. In June 2018, they managed to procure all the metal for their bronze medals. An by the end of 2018, the organisers had managed to procure 85 per cent of their silver and 90 per cent of their gold requirements.

By November 2018, the municipal authorities had managed to collect about 47,488 tonnes of e-waste, while a local Tokyo network provider had collected another five million end of life phones. The organisers are now confident that the remaining metal will be procured by the end of March 2019.

Electronic items like cell phones and laptops contain precious metals in their circuits and mother boards. It is estimated that about 300 grams of gold can be obtained from a tonne of old cell phones. Similarly, to get one gram of silver, three cell phones will have to recycled. The UN has warned that more than 40 million tonnes of E-waste is produced every year, but less than 20 per cent of this waste is recycled. Most this waste are disposed off in municipal landfills or shipped to developing countries.

A similar exercise was also done during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Silver and Bronze medals at Rio contained 30 per cent of recycled metal.

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