Japan recycled nearly 80,000 tons of cell phones and other electronics to make the medals for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics

The silver, gold, and bronze medals for Tokyo 2020.

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The silver, gold, and bronze medals for Tokyo 2020.
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Courtesy of Tokyo 2020

The 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games in Tokyo don’t start for another year, but Japan hasn’t wasted any time in getting the medals ready.

Tokyo 2020 is making the the gold, silver, and bronze medals entirely from 78,985 tons of recycled electronics, including 6.21 million recycled cellphones, according to the Tokyo 2020 Medal Project.

It turns out that gadgets contain everything that’s needed to make the medals. Tokyo 2020 didn’t say if the ribbons were also made from the old electronics, but perhaps the recycled plastic could make for good ribbon material?

I wouldn’t start tearing apart electronics to extract their precious metals, however. Of the nearly 80,000 tons of recycled gadgets, only 32 kilograms of gold, 3,500 kilograms of silver, and 2,200 kilograms of bronze (copper and zinc in this case) were extracted, according to Tokyo 2020.


In two years, Tokyo 2020 extracted enough metal from old gadgets to make approximately 5,000 Olympic and Paralympic medals.

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A girl donates an old cellphone to be recycled and turned into an Olympic medal.
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Tokyo 2020

The Tokyo 2020 Medal Project – including Japanese mobile carrier NTT Docomo, which collected the cellphones – started collections between April 2017 and March 2019. In those two years, the project amassed enough relevant metal for approximately 5,000 Olympic and Paralympic medals.


The recycling process included dismantling and sorting the gadgets …

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Courtesy of Tokyo 2020

… as well as smelting and refining their parts until they turned into this: usable metals. In the case below, gold.

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Courtesy of Tokyo 2020

Eventually, that gold would turn into this: the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic gold medal.

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Courtesy of Tokyo 2020

It’s hard to believe the Tokyo 2020 medals started off as just a pile of old tech.

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Courtesy of Tokyo 2020