Tokyo 2020 Olympic Medals Created Out of Recycled Precious Metals
Estimated 3 min read
With the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics less than a year away, excitement for the games is quickly mounting.
Every two years, the world tunes in to the global sporting event to cheer on their favorite athletes, tout national pride and generally come together as citizens of the world. While the Olympic Games are certainly nothing new - the first modern-day iteration was held in 1896 and was modeled after the Ancient Olympic Games that began in the 8th century B.C. - there does seem to be a new trend taking hold: using recycled material to produce the gold, silver and bronze medals.
In 2016, organizers of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics used recycled mirrors, X-ray plates and waste from the nation’s mint to produce the summer games’ medals. This time around, Tokyo 2020 organizers are continuing the trend by repurposing used mobile phones and other small electronic devices donated by the community.
From April 1, 2017, through the end of March 2019, the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020) called on residents of 1,621 participating Japanese municipalities plus businesses and industry entities to contribute their no-longer-needed devices to the cause. At the close of the two-year campaign, the group had amassed nearly 158 million pounds of donated devices which they turned into 71 pounds of gold, 7,700 pounds of silver and 4,850 pounds of bronze that will be used to produce the approximately 5,000 2020 medals. According to the Committee's website, "…100 percent of the metals required to manufacture the…gold, silver and bronze medals have been extracted…" from the reported 6-million-plus mobile phones and additional mobile devices collected.
The Committee hoped their recycling efforts would leave a lasting legacy of innovation and sustainability in the wake of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Such sentiment, particularly as it relates to gold, silver and the mining of precious metals, is well-timed. While long-term projections for the metals and mining sectors are strong, several sources including Bloomberg and the World Economic Forum have cited key “drivers of change” that mining and metals companies should heed to adapt to and be successful in the 21st century. Some of the most influential “drivers of change” are heightened consumer demand for sustainability, potential increased governmental regulation worldwide, and other environmental, geopolitical, and social factors.
While there’s no doubt that the mining and precious metals sectors are steadfast, resilient and integral parts of any significant economy, it’s encouraging to see the resource industry embrace a vision of “circular use of commodities,” as the World Economic Forum put it. Trends like resource recycling gaining ground and prominent entities such as the Olympics embracing technological advancements and alternative production methods are positive signs that the precious metals industry is, and will continue to be, essential to our domestic and global way of life.