In a bid to make the Olympic Games more sustainable than ever, the Olympic Committee responsible for organising the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, used materials from more than 6 million smartphones to make the 5,000 medals that will adorn the necks of the best Olympians at the Games next year.
The medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will be made from 100% recycled materials from old electronics. Together with laptops and cameras, the materials collected from donated electronic devices yielded approximately 71 pounds of gold, 7,700 pounds of silver, and 4,850 pounds of bronze.
Japanese citizens began donating their old electronics in 2017, with many donations made at NTT Docomo shops – one of the most popular mobile networks in Japan. Ultimately, 6.21 million phones were used to manufacture the Olympic medals.
The recycled materials used in the medals marks a significant change in the way the most prestigious athletic event in the world is run, in line with a global trend towards promoting environmentally sustainable measures across all spheres. Electronic waste contributes roughly 20 to 50 million metric tons to landfills annually, and the phones disposed of by Americans every year contain more than $60 million worth of gold and silver.
This isn’t the first time that the Olympic Committee has used recycled materials from old electronic devices to produce the thousands of medals that athletes are rewarded with for their athletic prowess, though. In 2010, recycled computers and televisions were used in a similar way to produce medals for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.