The International Olympics Committee recently released images of the gold, silver, bronze and Paralympic medals for the Rio 2016 Olympics. But here’s the catch: they’re all made of recycled materials.

This is not to say the medals are less valuable, it just means that they’re made in more environmentally friendly ways.

The gold medal winners will receive medals made from gold that has been extracted without the use of mercury and was produced according to strict sustainability criteria, from the mining of the gold all the way to the finished product.

According to the official Olympic website, nearly 30 percent of the silver used in the new medals will be recycled waste from leftover mirrors, solder (brass or silver used to join less fusible metals) and X-ray plates. The bronze medals will be made with copper waste from the Brazilian Mint.

Additionally, the ribbons that hang from the necks of the winning athletes will be made from woven recycled plastic bottles. Even the boxes the medals are cased in will be made from freijó wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

The medals are embossed with a design intended to celebrate the strength of Olympic athletes and forces of nature. They feature images of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, the Panathinaiko Stadium and the Acropolis. On the flip side, the design features laurel leaves — symbolic of victory in ancient Greece, in the form of the wreaths awarded to the winners — accompanied by the Rio 2016 Olympic logo.

The Paralympic Games medals were also released featuring a special innovation.

These medals were designed with tiny device inside that makes a noise when shaken, allowing visually impaired athletes to know whether they’ve won a gold, silver or bronze medal by simply listening to the noise.

The bronze medals will have 16 steel balls and will make the softest sound. The silver medals have 20 balls and gold medals have 28, making the loudest sound. All of the medals will also have the words “Rio 2016 Paralympic Games” written in Braille.

Also revealed were the podiums, which are made from organic materials and have been designed to be reused as furniture after the Games. The medal trays presenters use will be made from certified Curupixá wood, falling in line with Brazil’s theme of sustainability.

Sports fans around the world will gather to watch the Olympic Games on Aug. 5 to see who will take home the gold. In our book, the gold medal goes to Brazil for bringing innovation and sustainability to such a cherished tradition.   


Demand Equity

An Olympic First: Medals Made of Recycled & Sustainable Materials

By Krista Watson