With all of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games' troubles in Rio, 2020’s host city of Tokyo is already looking to divert the conversation in a more positive direction. According to Inhabitat, Japan is aiming to make their Olympic medals from recycled smartphones.
Unwanted electronics are a rich resource of precious metals: Many use elements struck from gold, silver, and copper. Nikkei Asian Review reports that in Japan, it’s estimated that about 315 pounds of gold was thrown in the trash in 2014, far exceeding the 21 pounds of gold used in the medals for the 2012 London Games.
While the material is plentiful, access to it might prove to be a challenge. Japan doesn’t have clearly-defined and implemented laws about recycling consumer electronics, which means a small portion of those recovered materials are usually diverted to making new devices and the majority are simply lost entirely. Of the 650,000 tons of e-waste collected in Japan each year, only 100,000 tons are recycled.
Officials are planning to arrange public-awareness campaigns for depositing unwanted phones and other technology so they can be utilized for award material. For residents, the smartphone they’re using now could eventually be part of Olympic history.
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