Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics committee wants the public to donate old gadgets to extract metals for them and create medals for the 2020 games. The medals for the upcoming Olympic Games will be made out of old gadgets. (Photo via Tokyo 2020 Olympics)


Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics they have something special up their sleeve: making medals out of old gadgets. To involve the community and promote recycling, the committee is asking the public to turn in unused or forgotten gadgets, like old smartphones. These items and other household appliances have small traces of the materials generally needed to make the medals. Rather than relying on mining companies, Tokyo wants to give people’s unwanted gadgets a new purpose. Saying that your old toaster went to making a gold medal is a pretty high honor.


The planning committee teamed up with partner companies NTT DOCOMO and Japan Environmental Sanitation Center (JESC) for the program. Starting in April public offices and over 2,400 NTT DOCOMO stores will have collection boxes where people can drop off their unwanted items. The goal is to collect eight tons of metal, which will equal to two tons after the production process, the total amount needed to make 5,000 medals for the Olympic and Paralympic games. Once they have the eight tons, the collection will come to an end.


This effort not only lets the community get involved but also directly responds to Recommendation 4 of the Olympic Agenda 2020, which aims to make sustainability integrated into planning and execution of the games. Many Olympic athletes spoke positively about the collection, saying it makes the medals that much more special. Gymnast Kohei Uchimura believes it wasteful to “discard devices every time there is a technological advance” and thinks this is a great way to reduce that waste. Decathlete Aston Eaton believes the medals from the collected items will represent the “weight of a nation.”


Making medals out of discarded objects is a novel way to recycle them. Many often don’t know what to do with their old phones and computers and settle for stuffing them in a junk drawer or leaving them in the dump. Perhaps this new effort will inspire further projects that tackle recycle in a similar way.


The Olympic 2020 planning committee isn’t the first to extract metals from these devices. Last year, tech giant Apple revealed they managed to collect 2,204 pounds of gold from broken iPhones in 2015. Apple promotes various recycling program, including the popular Apple Renew, which lets you recycle any Apple device at their stores. The company collected over 90 million pounds of e-waste, 61 million of which were reusable materials. The company then uses many of these extracted materials for their own products.


Wish they would release a potential prototype picture.


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