back to article Tokyo 2020 Olympic medals to be made from old electronics

The organising committee for the Tokyo 2020 Summer and Paralympic games has announced that medals at the games will be made from recycled electronics. The committee has “invited the Japanese population to give to the organising committee its discarded or obsolete electronic devices in order to use the metal in the production …

  1. Dr Scrum Master

    IoT? Bitcoin?

    What, no IoT or Bitcoin angle?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just set up stalll next to the Apple Store in Tokyo.

    The new macbook w/touchbar seems to be the perfect Landfill fodder.

  3. Phil Kingston Silver badge

    "40kg of gold, 4,920kg of silver and 2,944kg of bronze"

    I'm sure someone will put me right, but even accounting for different densities, doesn't that mean the gold medals will be tiny? Or the silver ones enormous?

  4. Captain DaFt

    "40kg of gold, 4,920kg of silver and 2,944kg of bronze"

    If the gold medals are actually gold plated silver, the numbers look about right.

  5. Haku Silver badge

    Re: "40kg of gold, 4,920kg of silver and 2,944kg of bronze"

    Gold plated silver? That's almost like reading "chocolate flavour covering" printed on a pack of chocolate biscuits.

  6. AIBailey

    Re: "40kg of gold, 4,920kg of silver and 2,944kg of bronze"

    Indeed. Olympic gold medals are actually mostly silver.

  7. rh587

    For cost reasons, only the Silver and Bronze medals are solid. Gold is gold plated silver - so still precious metal throughout (they're not coating tin or something!), but not solid gold.

  8. Your alien overlord - fear me

    8,000 kg of precious metals for 4,000kg of medals. Someone doing the classic, 1 for you, 1 for me methinks!!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    In MY olympics?

  10. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "8,000 kg of precious metals for 4,000kg of medals."

    Some of it evaporates during processing.

  11. ShelLuser

    With or without RFID?

    Maybe they can put a few RFID chips in there as well, so that the medals become traceable ;)

  12. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    Re: With or without RFID?

    No, no , no. Has to be Bluetooth enabled.

  13. agurney

    Re: With or without RFID?

    so we're back to IoT (Internet of Trophies)

  14. Scott Broukell

    Does this mean that recycling events will take place in the velodrome?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's hope they don't...

    Let's hope they don't use this as a reason to delay the medal ceremonies even further, till after the Paralympics, let alone the Velodrome events.

  16. Thoguht Silver badge

    Do the math

    So, if a typical phone contains say 0.03g of gold*, it's going to take over a million of them to get 40 kilos. Sounds a lot, but seeing that well over 30 million phones are sold each year in Japan, it would only take a few percent of users upgrading to donate their old models to get the required quantity.

    * This figure is based on a 2011 estimate for the iPhone at 0.034g but then reduced to take account of the fact that gold is getting too expensive these days so it's gradually being replaced by other metals where appropriate

  17. SkippyBing Silver badge

    Calling Tim Worstall

    I'm sure Tim Worstall, formerly of this parish, would have an opinion on this but as people don't regularly mine phones for gold am I right in thinking this may end up costing more than just buying the gold. At least part of this is the cost of the energy in extracting it from the phone and the use of chemicals which may actually make it worse environmentally than the traditional method of obtaining it.

  18. tiggity Silver badge

    Re: Calling Tim Worstall

    There are some cheap new methods for getting gold from electronics (and some far less toxic than old methods e.g. using vinegar!)

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Calling Tim Worstall

    So certainly more expensive than using virgin materials, and very likely worse for the environment. But "environmentalism" appears to be about symbolic gestures, so that's alright then. I've a far better idea for saving the planet. Make the Olympic medals out of recycled plastic bottle tops. The material is low cost, energy consumption of melting and mixing is low, genuine alternative uses are somewhat limited and low value, and the colours are all readily available.

    Admittedly the athletes might be unimpressed by plastic medals, but hopefully they'll appreciate that it is the taking part that counts. And in any event, given that they all seem to be on performance enhancers, or mysteriously needing TUE, most of 'em only deserve a plastic medal.....

  20. Chris Evans

    Re: Calling Tim Worstall

    I was going to give you an upvote but then read your last paragraph about athletes, so a down vote it is!

  21. Steve Aubrey

    Re: Calling Tim Worstall

    @Chris - don't you even want to give the AC a participation upvote??

  22. Tim Worstal

    Re: Calling Tim Worstall

    Well, I wouldn't say that I'd specifically go out to get phones to recycle them for the gold. But there are people who do mine them and do so productively.

    There're a couple of caveats though.

    1) No one metal makes the process worthwhile. If you were doing 80s PCs with 200 nm Au plating on the pins them maybe that would be enough in revenue. And if anyone's got some old analogue telephone switches then it's worth hand clipping them for the gold content (have actually watched this being done).

    For modern equipment you want the Sn, Cu, Au out and maybe they'll just about cover your costs. Add in not paying Landfill Tax and you're about there.

    It might be possible to go further, take the Ta out, but not much more.

    2) The other side of this is what are you allowed to throw away? If, once you've started mulching stuff this becomes chemicals waste or some such, with higher disposal costs, you might well find that landfilling the original phones makes more sense.

    It's a delicate balance between the two, revenue and final disposal costs. Can go either way dependent.

    What certainly doesn't get paid for is the cost of collecting widely dispersed waste into one place. Paying for that has to come from elsewhere. Could be like this. Or, the people who collect today usually try out those that still work and sell them in poor countries. That's the extra revenue that makes the whole system work. Just recycling for the metals costs will not and cannot pay for the costs of the whole system, including collection.

  23. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge

    Citius, altius, fortius, recyclius

    Faster, higher, stronger, reused more! Love the line! Perhaps it can be adopted as the official motto of the geriatric senior Olympiad. The world's population is, after all, becoming older.

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