Tokyo 2020 - the Olympics with Sustainable Medals

How millions of consumer electronics became part of an Olympic legacy

TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 31: Katie Ledecky of Team USA poses with her two Gold and two Silver medals after a giving a press conference to the media during the Tokyo Olympic Games on July 31, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.
By Marcella McCarthy (EN)
August 13, 2021 | 01:30 PM

Miami — It’s a wrap on the Tokyo Olympics and athletes are returning home with their hard-earned medals. In Latin America, Brazil leads the pack with 21 medals, seven of which are gold. But if you’ve ever wondered if the medals were made of real gold, the answer is 2-part: One, the medals are made of a conglomerate of materials, and they are then gold plated. Two, the materials can be partially upto the host country. For example, Japan 2020 marks the first Olympics where the medals are made of recycled goods.

“The actual medals were made from recycled consumer electronics and a lot of that was donated by Japanese people who wanted to play a part in the Olympics,” said Marcus Shen, COO of B-Stock, one of the largest “recommerce” electronics and appliances B2B platforms in the world. Recommerce is the resale of goods, and in B-stock’s case, it’s electronics and appliances that come directly from known retailers such as Target, Walmart and Amazon.

Japan organized the “Tokyo 2020 Medal Project” to collect small electronic devices such as used cell phones from all over Japan to then turn into the Olympic medals. The project makes Tokyo 2020 the first in the history of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to involve citizens in the production of medals.

To achieve this feat, 90% of Japan’s cities participated, collecting 6.21 million used mobile phones to make 5,000 medals.


To stay up-to-date with trends and the newest technology, people change their phones regularly, often leaving old devices to pile up at home. While the devices used to make the medals were likely used and lying around the house, there are many electronic devices that are bought and then returned in a damaged box which retailers then have a hard time reselling. It’s those - and others - that make their way to B-Stock’s site. That being said, B-Stock doesn’t buy any of the items, but like e-bay, serves simply at the middle man between the buyers and the sellers.

Sustainability has been a growing trend over the years in business and retail, and companies want to be sustainable in their practices.

“Companies don’t want to throw stuff away, they don’t want to be part of the problem,” Shen told Bloomberg Línea.


“The e-bays of the world were recommerce 1.0 and now we’re seeing a ton of new marketplaces that are doing it in lots of categories,” added Shen.

B-Stock is B2B so individuals without a resale ID can’t buy items on the site. But it doesn’t only sell new products - it sells used items, too.

“The consumer shift is changing toward things that have durable value,” Shen said. This has been a change that took off after the last American recession. There’s been a shift toward “back to basics,” where people are buying goods without labels, goods that are made locally, and of good quality.

“Millennials and the younger set tend to be thinking about sustainability,” Shen said.