Written by Harshman Sarin, a grade 11 student
The medals earned by athletes such as Neeraj Chopra, Saikhom Mirabai Chanu, and P.V. Sindhu, among others, bring pride to the entire nation, but have you ever wondered what these medals are made of?
Here’s the surprising story behind these medals at the Tokyo Olympics 2021:
The Tokyo Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020) initiated The “Tokyo 2020 Medal Project.”
This initiative aspired to provide an innovative future for the globe. And to achieve this, small electronic items including cellphones were collected from all over Japan between April 2017 and March 2019 to create these precious medals instead of adding to the burden of E-waste.
Up to 90% of Japanese cities, towns, and villages took part by setting up donation pick-up sites where hundreds of thousands of Japanese citizens donated their old electronic devices making Tokyo 2020 the first in the history of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to involve citizens in the production of medals and to manufacture the medals using recycled metals. The entire country of Japan was involved in the manufacturing of the medals for the Tokyo 2020 Games, from metal acquisition to medal design development.
70 pounds (32 kilograms) of gold, 7,700 pounds (3493 kilograms) of silver, and 4,850 pounds (2200 kilograms) of bronze were created as a result of the recycling campaign. All of this came from approximately 80 tons of small electronic gadgets like obsolete phones and laptops. This two-year nationwide initiative in Japan collected enough recycled material to manufacture around 5,000 bronze, silver, and gold medals for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
This project of recycling small consumer electronics and the efforts to contribute to an environmentally friendly and sustainable society has become a legacy of the Tokyo 2020 Games and has set a precedent for the future Olympic Games.