Tokyo Olympics: From discarded mobile phones to glittering medals, Japan shows the way

The Tokyo 2020 project enlisted, among other sectors, municipal corporations, companies, schools and local communities across the country.

Published: 26th July 2021 04:37 PM  |   Last Updated: 26th July 2021 04:37 PM   |  A+A-

Tokyo Olympics 2020 Gold Medal

Tokyo Olympics 2020 Gold Medal (Photo | AP)


TOKYO: The Japanese government had to launch a two-year nationwide campaign to collect ample recycled material for the production of 5,000 bronze, silver, and gold medals for the Tokyo Olympics, which commenced on July 23.

While the concept of making medals from discarded laptops, mobile phones and other electronic commodities is not new, the Japanese took it to an altogether different level, enlisting the support of nearly 90 per cent of the country's cities, towns and villages.

In the end, the country was able to produce 32kg of gold, 3,492kg silver and approximately 2200kg of bronze from nearly 80 tonnes of electronic devices, which then went into the crafting of the glittering Olympic medals.

During the Rio 2016 Olympics, about 30 per cent of the gold and silver for the medals came from recycled material extracted from car parts and mirror surfaces.

The Tokyo 2020 project enlisted, among other sectors, municipal corporations, companies, schools and local communities across the country.

"The campaign called on the public to donate obsolete electronic devices for the project," Tokyo 2020 spokesperson Hitomi Kamizawa was quoted as saying by "We are grateful for everyone's cooperation."

In April 2017 after months of planning, the project was launched with great fanfare, with the Japanese government posting a two-minute video of the process -- from collection of discarded electronic goods, separation of precious metals and the final crafting of the medals -- on the completion of the project in 2019.

"The #Tokyo2020 Medal Project aims towards an innovative future for the world. From April 2017 to March 2019, small electronic devices including mobile phones were collected to produce the Olympic and Paralympic medals," the Tokyo 2020 organisers had tweeted following the successful completion of the project.

Renet Japan Group devised a "waste management movement" for the production of the medals.

"We developed a waste management movement for the medal project with the cooperation of many stakeholders, from the Japanese government to local communities," said Toshio Kamakura, director of Renet Japan Group.

The task was not simple as it involved thousands of hours of extraction followed by the precious metals being moulded into Junichi Kawnishi's design concept.



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