The Rio Olympic Games are now closed (except for the Paralympics ones), giving emotions and joining them together in front of the television screens. For the next ones, we have to wait the established four years, but Tokyo - the next arena for athletes all around the world - has already made a promise: the 2020 medals will be made from recycled materials derivative from e-waste.
However, if you we think well about it, creating those medals has no environmental impact as high as compared to all that accompanies this show. But, the most photographed moment, waited, on which the lens always points, is just when the medal is around the neck of the three best athletes in the world. Thus, why not make them the symbol of the need for an increasingly urgent sustainability in all fields, also in the sport? Japan wants to be a forerunner in realizing medals with e-waste (old smartphones and other electronic gadgets) both for the Olympic Games and for the Paralympics Games.
This year in Rio it has already been done a first step towards sustainability: the gold medals were made with gold extracted without the use of mercury and produced with strict sustainability criteria. The silver and bronze medals instead, had 30% of recycled materials and half of the plastic used for ribbons came from recycled plastic bottles. Japan's 2020 Olympic medals proposal could be achieved. Figures from the Nikkei Asia Review state that for the medals for the 2012 London Olympics, about 9.6kg of gold, 1,210kg of silver, and 700kg of copper were used, whereas the amount of precious metals recovered from e-waste in Japan in 2014 consisted of 143kg of gold, 1,566kg of silver, and 1,112 tons of copper, which is more than enough to cover the making of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic medals.
The challenge to get prepared for the next game is, however, to implement the collection of electronic waste. Nowadays, according to the magazine Nikkei, less than 100 thousand tons of a total of 650 thousand tons are collected properly every year. A group of Olympic organizers assisted by the government is already planning to make the collect easier. Even with the implementation of an efficient e-waste collection system, the proposal for recycled metals in the Olympic medals may still fall short, as much of the metals currently being recovered from e-waste is already put back into circulation as new electronics, especially silver, which "faces a tight supply-demand balance" in Japan.