Tokyo upcycles its smartphones into Olympic medals

Future medals? © CC by SA 3.0

Ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, on February 1st, the organizing committee invited all residents of Japan to donate their obsolete electronic devices to manufacture the medals. The committee estimates that it will need to collect millions of devices in order to reach the 8 tons of metal required to produce the olympic medals. Starting in April 2017, collection boxes will be placed throughout Japan in the more than 2,400 stores of NTT Docomo, the telecom giant sponsor of the Tokyo Olympics. Once processed for recycling by the Japan Environmental Sanitation Center, the 8 tons of e-waste will be reduced to 2 tons of metal, enough to make 5,000 medals.

Previously, Rio de Janeiro had also manufactured some of its olympic medals using recycled metal, but Tokyo 2020 will be the first host city to upcycle the metal from domestic e-waste (smartphones, laptops, cameras…). The committee claims that all its gold medals will be made from 100% recycled materials.

“When an athlete at Tokyo wins a medal, the weight of it will not be from the gold, silver, or bronze; it will be the weight of a nation,” remarked former American decathlete Ashton Eaton. “The awesomeness of this project makes me want to come out of retirement and compete for one.”

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