These medals deserve a medal! Tokyo 2020 makes medals out of recycled materials.


An Olympic medal is an athlete’s dream. It is perhaps the crowning glory of a career and something that is a matter of great pride. The athletes competing in Tokyo 2020 Games will have another reason to be proud of the medals around their necks – they will be made entirely from recycled metal.

The commitment of the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to making the Olympics as green as they can be was the reason for their ‘Tokyo 2020 Medal Project’.

How did they get the materials to make the medals with? Between April 2017 and March 2019, the Committee asked ordinary citizens to donate their old small electronic devices to them. This drive helped them collect all the metal that they required to create the approximately 5,000 gold, silver and bronze medals. From mobile phones and other devices, people gave in large numbers to fulfil the Committee’s dream of making 100% recycled medals. The donated devices were recycled by experts, and the medals were made after extracting gold, silver and bronze elements by the smelting.

What’s smelting? Smelting is the process of removing metal from its ore through heating and melting.

What does the medal look like? After successfully collecting all the metal they required, the Committee held an open competition to design the new Olympic medal. From the hundreds of entries that poured in, Junichi Kawanishi’s was declared the winner. The main face of the medal has the image of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory standing in front of the Panathinaikos stadium in Athens. On the reverse, the medal is engraved with ‘Tokyo 2020’. The symbolic five rings of the Olympics feature on both sides. Each medal will be presented in a box that has its own unique wood fibre pattern incorporated into the design. 

Besides the medals, Tokyo 2020 are taking sustainability very seriously and hope to make it this Olympics the greenest ever. Some of the other ideas are: 

💡Operation BATON, Building Athletes’ village with Timber Of the Nation, is an idea to make all the structures of the Olympic village using sustainably-sourced Japanese wood from local authorities across the country. When the games are done, the wood will be returned to be recycled in the communities e.g. making a park benches. 

💡Getting paper and palm oil from sustainable sources.

💡Tokyo 2020 signed the UN Sports for Climate Action Initiative to drive climate change in sporting communities. 

💡Recycling rules for most material used during the Olympics and hiring rather than buying as much as possible to reduce consumption. 

💡Energy saving ideas and renewable energy in as many venues as possible. 

Besides the environment, the Tokyo Games will also ensure the human rights of all those involved with the games including awareness- building trainings around diversity and inclusion. 

So while athletes make a mark on the field at the Games, their Olympics hope to leave very few on the environment. Kudos Japan!

Written by: Pereena Lamba. Pereena is a freelance writer, editor and creative consultant. She is also co-author of Totally Mumbai.

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