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Japan plans to use recycled gold for 2020 Olympic medals

Published Thursday 1st September 2016

The Rio Olympics may only just be over but medal-makers’ thoughts are already turning to where they will source the gold for the next Games in 2020.

The organisers of the Tokyo Games in four years’ time are looking to use recycled gold to make the medals for the Olympics and Paralympics and have already started to talk about sourcing the precious metal.

They’re aiming to use gold, silver and copper recovered from old mobile phones and computers to make the medals, rather than asking mining companies – which is the usual practice – to donate towards them.

Although gold and silver Olympic medals only contain a small proportion of the precious metals and are not solid gold or silver, this will be the first time that an Olympic Games has gone all out to make ‘sustainable’ medals.

Japan has a great international reputation for recycling and it’s reported that around 16 per cent of the world’s recycled gold come from precious metal recovered from electronic appliances in the country, while the same practice accounts for approximately 22 per cent of global recycled silver reserves.

In 2014, 315lbs of gold and 3,452lbs of silver was collected from electronic appliances in Japan. That would be ample to create the medals for the Tokyo Games – in the London 2012 Olympics, 21lbs of gold and 2,667lbs of silver were used to create the medals, according to Fox News.

Although much of the unwanted, broken or scrap gold and silver that we recycle goes back into making jewellery, the electronics business is also a large user of the precious metals in its circuitry.

So when you convert your old gold and silver jewellery into cash, some of it may actually end up hanging around the neck of proud Olympic medal winners in Tokyo in four years’ time.