Tokyo 2020 Will Show Off Olympic Medals Made From Recycled Smartphones

As the world gears up for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo next summer, Japanese officials have shown off the most coveted items from the upcoming competition: the gold, silver, and bronze medals awarded to winners. While sportscasters might talk about how the athletes won the precious medals, the Tokyo Olympic Committee wants the world to know how they made the prizes. Usually, host cities ask local mines to donate gold, silver, and bronze for the medals, but the Tokyo Olympic Committee had the medals made from recycled material from smartphones and other electronic devices.

Since the 1970s, Japan has been at the forefront of recycling consumer electronics, as the Japan Times points out. At first, Japan’s system involved hiring specially trained workers to recycle the material by hand, a method that was quickly changed as it was slow and overly expensive. The nation’s current laws concerning the recycling of consumer electronics are among the strictest in the world and focus on encouraging both consumers and manufacturers to do their part.

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The stringent regulations have proven to be very effective for Japan. According to an article in Nikkei Asian Review, in 2014, Japan was able to obtain 143 kg of gold and 1,566 kg of silver from electronics. The nation was also able to get 1,112 tons of copper, which is a key component in the manufacturing of bronze. The amount of these metals from 2014 alone was enough for the Tokyo Olympic Committee to make the medals needed for next year’s competition. For the 2012 Olympic Games, the London Olympic Committee only needed 9.6 kg of gold, 1,210 kg of silver, and 700 kg of copper to make the medals awarded to the athletes.

Collection of the gold, silver, and copper, as well as manufacturing of the medals, was streamlined through the Tokyo Olympic Committee’s partnership with government agencies, phone companies, corporations that specialize in precious metals, and recycling plants. Many everyday citizens even donated their electronics to help the Olympic Committee.

The Tokyo Olympic Games begin on July 24 and run through August 9. Over 11,000 athletes from 206 countries will compete for gold, silver, and bronze medals in 339 events.

What do you think of how the Tokyo Olympic Committee manufactured the medals that will be awarded at next year’s competition from consumer electronics? Are you looking forward to next year’s games? What events do you like watching the most?