2020 Tokyo Olympic Medal Will Be Made Of Recycled Metal From Electronic Waste

The organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics unveiled the design of the medals for the most awaited sports event in the world. Aside from its majesty design and intricate elements, the organizing committee (TOCOG) prides that the 2020 medals will be made entirely out of recycled metals from donated electronic wastes.

Out of more than 400 designs submitted by aspiring design professionals and student designers, the new design was masterfully created by Junichi Kawanishi, Director of the Japan Sign Design Association and the Osaka Design Society.

For the 5,000 plus medals that will be awarded next summer to the world’s best athletes in different sports, the chosen design “reflects patterns of light” symbolizing the energy and enthusiasm of the athletes and their supporters. Additionally, the design was also created with themes to represent athletes’ strive for victory on a daily basis, as well as the Olympic themes of diversity and friendship.

“It is a great honor that my design was selected for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic medal,” Kawanishi said. “I never dreamed that the design I submitted only as a memorial to this lifetime event would actually be selected. With their shining rings, I hope the medals will be seen as paying tribute to the athletes’ efforts, reflecting their glory, and symbolizing friendship.”

The medals will be minted by the Tokyo 2020 Medal Project, a landmark recycling initiative which ensured that each one had been molded entirely from metal extracted from recycled consumer electronics over the past two years. This way, the organizers said, the people of Japan will have a special connection to the Olympic medals.

2020 Tokyo Olympic aims to be the most environmentally sustainable Games in history

The initiative is part of the 2020 Olympic Games’ “be better, together – for the planet and the people” theme where the TOCOG aims to make Tokyo summer games as the most environmentally sustainable Olympic games in history.

The Tokyo 2020 Medal Project has successfully commissioned the help of millions of Japenese with the help of 1,300 educational institutions and 2,100 electronics retail stores across Japan.

“Signature yellow donation boxes were placed in post offices and on street corners all over the country, and a TOCOG partner company enabled the public to donate their used phones at 2,400 stores nationwide,” reads a blogpost from the Olympics official website.

Furthermore, TOCOG has also united more than 90% of local authorities in actively supporting the project, gathering more than 78,985 tons of discarded devices. They were able to collect a total of approximately 6.21 million used mobile phones, along with digital cameras, handheld games, and laptops, all of which were then classified, dismantled and melted down by highly trained contractors.

In total, the project had successfully gathered 30.3kg of gold, 4,100kg of silver and 2,700kg of bronze, an amount beyond their initial goals by the time the collection period ended in March 2019.

Japan is not the first Olympic host to use recycled materials in designing the medals to be awarded in the summer games. In Rio 2016, an estimated 30% of all the silver and bronze used in the medals were collected and molded from recycled materials.

However, TOCOG said that the project lead by the 2020 Tokyo Games had seen an unprecedented level of community engagement. It is the first Olympic Games where people are proactively involved in collecting the materials to be used in the medals, in line with the Games’ Nationwide Participation Programmes.

Aside from the medals, themselves, Olympic organizers have also unveiled the design for the medal cases and the ribbons, both of which are designed by incorporating traditional Japanese values with the Olympic spirit.

Each case will be made from Japanese ash dyed the same color as the Olympic emblem, and every single one will have a wood fiber pattern subtly infused into the design, representing each Olympian who steps onto the field of play.

With the intention of reflecting Japanese culture and diversity, the medal ribbons were designed based on traditional ichimatsu moyo and kasane no irome. They are supposed to symbolize “unity in diversity.”

“There is a beautiful balance between the design of the medals and their ribbons,” Ryohei Miyata, Chair of the Tokyo 2020 medal design selection panel, said. “It makes me want to strive for a medal myself.”

The sustainability initiative the TOCOG is trying to implement in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics does not end with medals made of recycled metals. The uniforms to be used during the ceremonial opening and torch parade will also be constructed using recycled plastic bottles and the podium in the event will be made out of the discarded household and marine plastic, with the Japanese public contributing around 45 tons of household plastic in order to create the 100 podiums for the Games.

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