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Tokyo medals are made with electronic waste
A gold medal weighs 556 grams and costs $800. Photo: Getty Images

Tokyo medals are made with electronic waste

Between 2017 and 2019, 6.3 million mobile phones, tablets and laptops were collected, equating to 78.985 tons of electronic waste to make the Olympic medals.

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Behind the gold, silver and bronze medals that athletes collect at each Olympics is a tradition that began in 1904 at the St. Louis Olympics. Although each year the design of the medals is different, on the obverse of each must be the Goddess of Victory, Nike, in front of the Panathinaikos stadium in Athens, the five Olympic rings, and the name of the games.

The medals at Tokyo 2020 also have a particularity, they are made with recycled materials from electronic devices donated by Japanese people.

The Tokyo 2020 Medal Project was just one of the initiatives surrounding the Olympic Games to make them the most sustainable in history, as it sought to reduce the generated waste by 80%.

That is why the beds are made of cardboard, the podiums are made of recycled plastic, the material for the torches of the Olympic flame comes from the debris of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that left some 20,000 Japanese dead, and the facilities of the Olympic Village are the same as the 1964 Olympics.

Between 2017 and 2019, 6.3 million mobile phones, tablets and laptops were collected, equating to 78.985 tons of electronic waste, which became 32 kilograms of gold, 3,492 kilograms of silver and about 2,200 kilograms of bronze. The material was used to make the medals.

Ninety percent of the country's municipalities participated in the project, and any person that wanted to donate their device only had to deposit it in one of many mailboxes set up around the country.

The difference in the amount of metal is due to the fact that gold medals are not made 100% of the precious metal. They are made of silver and are plated with six grams of gold.

The silver ones are made 100% in silver and the bronze ones are an alloy of 95% copper and 5% zinc.

 
Sentimental value

According to the New York Times, a Tokyo 2020 gold medal weighs 556 grams and should cost $800, little compared to what each athlete earns for first place in any Olympic sport.

The prize for winning a medal depends on the Olympic Committee of each country, those who receive more money are the athletes of Singapore, who would win $737,000 for a gold, compared to the $37,000 a U.S. gold medalist can win.

However, according to the same NYT article, with the passage of time, one of these medals could acquire enormous value, depending on the history behind it and the conditions in which it was won by the athletes.

Such is the case with one of the four medals won by legendary athlete Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which were auctioned for $1.8 million in 2019, setting a record for the value of Olympians memorabilia.

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