Inside most smartphones, there are precious metal materials, including gold, silver, and bronze. If those metals sound familiar, it’s because they are the materials that make up Olympic medals.
A Tokyo recycling program thought it would be only natural to mine the precious metals needed to create the 2020 Olympic awards from old electronics, including smartphones (via The Verge). So far, municipal authorities have collected about 47,488 tons of e-waste and are happy to report they will likely reach their goal of making all 2020 Olympic and Paralympic medals from recycled materials.
Making up those tons of waste is an astounding five million old smartphones, all of which were voluntarily recycled by Japanese citizens at NTT Docomo stores.
The committee met its target of 2,700kg of bronze in June 2018, while almost 94 percent of the 30.3kg gold target and over 85 percent of the 4,100kg silver target was met in October. The recycling program will continue to accept old devices through the end of March, making it very likely that 100 percent of all Olympic medals will be entirely reused materials.
Later this year, after the recycling program concludes, the Olympic committee will reveal the design of the 2020 medals.
It will be pretty neat to know that an Olympic medal might have part of your old phone in it! It’s also nice to know that the majority of these electronics aren’t just ending up in a landfill somewhere.