Tokyo 2020 to make medals from old mobile phones

The medals presented at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2020 will be made from recycled mobile phones.

Olympic host cities have traditionally obtained the metal needed to make medals from mining firms, but Japan – which lacks its own mineral resources – is committed to sourcing the metal in a sustainable way.

For Rio 2016 gold was extracted without the use of mercury and silver and bronze from recycled sources.

Tokyo 2020 hopes to take this one step further.

The initiative – that was first announced in August last year – urges the Japanese public to donate old phones and small appliances to gather eight tonnes of metal – 40 kg of gold, 2,920 kg of silver and 2,994 kg of bronze – in order to obtain the two tonnes of metal required to make 5,000 medals.

5,130 medals were produced for the Rio Games, and 4,700 were produced for the 2012 London Games.

Collection boxes will be placed in local offices and telecoms stores NTT DoCoMo Inc – which will partner with environmental firm Japan Environmental Sanitation Center for the project.

The boxes will remain at these locations until all the metal required has been collected.

Koji Murofushi, Sports Director of Tokyo 2020, said: “There’s quite a limit on the resources of our earth, and so recycling these things and giving them a new use will make us all think about the environment.”

He went on to say: “Having a project that allows all the people of Japan to take part in creating the medals that will be hung around athletes’ necks is really good.”

Former Japanese gymnast and three-times an Olympic gold medallist, KoheiUchimura, said: “Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic medals will be made out of people’s thoughts and appreciation for avoiding waste. I think there is an important message in this for future generations.”

Hear from Michelle Lemaître, Head of Sustainability of the International Olympic Committee, on how mega events are greening their operations at Sustainable Innovation in Sport – a two day meeting bringing together stakeholders and influencers who are engendering positive environmental impacts through sport, on the 22-23 February 2017. 

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