The 2016 Summer Olympic Games ended in Rio last night, with Brazil handing the baton off to Tokyo who will host the next Summer Olympic Games in 2020. While the Olympic games in Tokyo are still about four years away, that doesn't mean that Tokyo and on even broader scope, Japan, aren't already preparing for the games in 2020. A report coming out of Japan today stated that they are planning to create the medals for the 2020 Summer Olympic games out of recycled smartphones. It'll be pretty interesting if that does end up happening, and with the amount of smartphones out there now, it wouldn't be too hard to get enough gold, silver and copper to create these medals for the athletes.
Going back to the 2012 London Olympic Games (since the numbers from Rio aren't yet out), they needed 21lbs of gold, 2667lbs of silver and 1543lbs of copper for the medals that they handed out to athletes during the two week period that comprised the Olympics. This won't be tough for Tokyo to do, considering in 2014 they recovered 315lbs of gold, 3452lbs of silver and 1112 tons of copper from electronic waste. In Japan alone, there is about 650,000 tons of small electronics and appliances discarded every year. The country only collects less than 100,000 tons of it. Japan typically uses the metals recovered from e-waste for creating new electronics.
Typically, the metals used for Olympic medals come from mining companies donating them to the host city for each Olympics. This would be the first time that a host city has opted to use e-waste for creating medals that will be handed out to the winning athletes. The idea for using e-waste for the medals actually came from a meeting back in June regarding the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. If collecting e-waste for creating Olympic medals for the Tokyo games in 2020 works out well for the city, we could see this become a more popular way of creating Olympic medals in the future. It's better for the earth, than just getting donated metals from mining companies, and it's a form of recycling, which is a win/win for everyone.