The Tokyo Olympics 2020 has been a game of many firsts. And while most of us know that this is the first time Olympics are being held without spectators and the new games have been introduced for the first time, not many of us know that Olympic medals have been made from recycled e-waste.

As much as 78,985 tonnes of electronic waste was collected between April 2017 and March 2019 for the initiative called the ‘Tokyo 2020 Medal Project’.

All of this did not happen in a day or two. A drive was conducted to collect electronic waste such as phones from across the country over the period of 2 years. From students and athletes to private companies, everyone reached out to people across Japan to donate small electronic devices that were no longer in use.

A total of 6.21 million used phones were apparently collected, classified and dismantled as per the local recylcing laws.


What was the end result of the entire process?

32 kg of gold, 3,500 kg of silver, and 2,250 kg of bronze were recovered from the collected waste and used to make 5,000 medals for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

And if you are wondering, this might have compromised the quality of the medals, you are wrong. The composition of the medals still remains the same.

Not just the metallic part, even the ribbons of the medals have been made in an eco-friendly manner using “chemically recycled polyester fibres that produce less carbon dioxide during their manufacturing process.”

In 2019, the world generated 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste. This is huge and a welcome step towards sustainability.