The Link Between Olympic Medals And e-Waste

The recent Olympic Games in Tokyo gave us a timely reminder that, if possible, we should repair our electronic devices instead of disposing of them. As an authorised Apple servicing centre, with the ability to service a large number of products and brands, we’d like to think that we can breathe new life into devices – and the Olympics have made us more determined to do just that.

At the Tokyo Olympics, all of the metal in the gold, silver and bronze medals was recycled from the precious resources found in electronic devices. Between 2017 and 2019, people right across Japan donated old electronic devices, such as smartphones and laptops, and the valuable metals were extracted from them. In total, the Japanese government collected a few million tonnes of equipment and took out 32 kilograms of gold and 3500 kilograms of silver for the gold and silver medals, and 2200 kilograms of copper and zinc for the bronze medals. If you’re wondering why they extracted just 32 kilograms of gold compared to 3500 kilograms of silver to make the gold medals, it’s because pure gold is too soft – so the “gold medals” are actually solid silver with a gold plating.

This Olympic-sized recycling project shows that with every electronic device that is thrown away, many precious resources are discarded with it, including the gold, silver, copper, and zinc we’ve already discussed. Scientists at the University of Plymouth found that each smartphone contains roughly 90mg of silver and 36mg of gold. Multiply that by the 1.5 billion smartphones produced each year and you end up with a staggering amount of those two metals alone.

This just confirms the appalling waste that happens on a global level when perfectly good devices are thrown away and replaced. Many of those discarded products have plenty of life left in them, and we know this because we can service them and make them perfectly functional for years to come. Once the world’s consumers fully grasp what they’re disposing of every year, then maybe they’ll think about repairing instead of replacing. After all, precious resources are precious for a reason. They’re scarce – and increasingly so in this so-called sustainable age when we continue to throw electronic devices into landfill.

The organisers of the Tokyo Olympics gave us an insight into this phenomenon, and we want to play our part too by asking you to think about getting your devices repaired before buying new ones. To find out if service work is feasible, or if you really do need to replace that device, contact us.