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Let's make medals for the Olympics and the Paralympics by recycling


In Japan, there is a project being promoted to recycle small, disused household appliances to make medals for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

In Japan, there is a project being promoted to recycle small, disused household appliances to make medals for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

Mobile phones and digital cameras that are no longer being used will be re-crafted as shiny medals for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics. This project is now getting off the ground. Japanese citizens have been called to participate in the first initiative of its kind in the history of the Olympics and the Paralympics, where metals extracted from the collection of small household appliances will be used to produce the gold, silver and bronze medals handed out to athletes. Spring 2017 saw the start of a movement calling for citizens to collect any small household appliances they no longer need; and bit by bit, the necessary metals are being collected.

Events to promote participation in the project (Courtesy of Tokyo 2020 Medal Project: Towards an Innovative Future for All)

Events to promote participation in the project (Courtesy of Tokyo 2020 Medal Project: Towards an Innovative Future for All)

Collection boxes for cell phones and smart phones (Courtesy of Tokyo 2020 Medal Project: Towards an Innovative Future for All)

Collection boxes for cell phones and smart phones (Courtesy of Tokyo 2020 Medal Project: Towards an Innovative Future for All)

Calling for recycling - dressed as Super Squadron Heroes popular with kids from a TV show (Courtesy of Tokyo 2020 Medal Project: Towards an Innovative Future for All)

Calling for recycling - dressed as Super Squadron Heroes popular with kids from a TV show (Courtesy of Tokyo 2020 Medal Project: Towards an Innovative Future for All)

Kids putting small household appliances they no longer need into recycling boxes (Courtesy of Tokyo 2020 Medal Project: Towards an Innovative Future for All)

Kids putting small household appliances they no longer need into recycling boxes (Courtesy of Tokyo 2020 Medal Project: Towards an Innovative Future for All)

So what's an "Urban Mine"?

Parts in cell phones, digital cameras and PCs, etc., contain tiny amounts of precious metals such as gold. This is a plan to recycle small, disused household appliances, extract these metals and create the 5,000 or so medals (the collective number for all Gold, Silver and Bronze medals) needed for the Games. The collection of small household appliances began in earnest in April 2017, with the help of municipalities and companies across the country. Starting with Tokyo where the Games are to be held, support for the initiative has also spread to many other prefectures and municipalities, with collection sites being rolled out all over Japan.

Collection of disused cell phones  (Courtesy of Tokyo 2020 Medal Project: Towards an Innovative Future for All)

Collection of disused cell phones (Courtesy of Tokyo 2020 Medal Project: Towards an Innovative Future for All)

Collection of small, disused household appliances (Courtesy of Tokyo 2020 Medal Project: Towards an Innovative Future for All)

Collection of small, disused household appliances (Courtesy of Tokyo 2020 Medal Project: Towards an Innovative Future for All)

Rare metals collected from small, disused household appliances. 1 ton of scrap metal can contain more than 100 grams of gold. Apart from gold, it also contains silver, bronze and palladium (Courtesy of Tokyo 2020 Medal Project: Towards an Innovative Future for All)

Rare metals collected from small, disused household appliances. 1 ton of scrap metal can contain more than 100 grams of gold. Apart from gold, it also contains silver, bronze and palladium (Courtesy of Tokyo 2020 Medal Project: Towards an Innovative Future for All)

The metals contained in small, disused home appliances are collectively called an "urban mine"; with many such appliances dotted around the town and stored away in people's homes. According to the experts, if collections are made throughout Japan, there will be enough scrap metal to make 5,000 medals. There is a collection mechanism in place in accordance with the 2013 Recycling Act (on consumer electronics). The technology to remove and reuse metal has been around for some time, but the public was hardly aware of it. As a result, it seems that to date only around 10% of the total volume thrown out has been collected. Many precious metals have just been thrown away.

(Courtesy of Tokyo 2020 Medal Project: Towards an Innovative Future for All)

(Courtesy of Tokyo 2020 Medal Project: Towards an Innovative Future for All)

Turn your own cell phone into a medal

The major, initial aim of this project is to make medals. And by turning their own cell phones, etc. into medals, we hope that Japanese citizens will feel closer to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, which will lead to an upsurge of interest in the Games across the country. But that is not our only objective. The world’s attention is focused on the Olympics and the Paralympics and we hope that if we make medals for these events from recycled metal it will be a chance to give a better understanding to people in Japan and all around the world how home appliances we no longer need can be used effectively.

A gold medal made from scrap metal collected from small, disused household appliances

A gold medal made from scrap metal collected from small, disused household appliances

Olympic Gold Medalists taking part in PR for the collection of small, disused household appliances, which started in earnest in April 2017.

Olympic Gold Medalists taking part in PR for the collection of small, disused household appliances, which started in earnest in April 2017.

Mottainai – Let’s share this sentiment throughout the world

Mottainai (What a Waste!) is a Japanese expression that has recently become known across the world. The concept is that we should look after things and continue to use things that can be used without wasting them. And it is precisely this spirit that the current project is putting into action. In recent years a hot topic for discussion has been how to be environmentally friendly in the world. The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will have left behind a major legacy if this project triggers the world-wide spread of a culture of recycling.


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