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Japan May Craft Its Olympic Medals From Old Smartphones

The Rio Olympics may have just ended but we’ve already gotten a look into Tokyo’s plans for the 2020 summer games. With Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe popping out as the highly-recognized Mario at the closing ceremony, you know the nation is planning to lean hard on its pop-culture icons. It also seems the country will be using the Olympics to make a statement about sustainability. According to a report by Nikkei, Japan’s “urban mine” is home to millions of smartphones and other discarded electronics. The mine contains enough precious metals, from which organizers are planning to craft the next summer games’s Olympic and Paralympic gold, silver and bronze medals. While Japan’s electronic recycling produces more than enough precious medal each year to forge the Olympic prizes, most of that material is already being used to create more electronics. The Olympic committee is planning to establish a collection system in hopes of allowing everyday citizens to feel they too are participating in the games.

For the 2012 London Olympics, 9.6kg of gold, 1,210kg of silver and 700kg of copper (the primary component of bronze) were used to produce medals. The amount of precious metals recovered from discarded electronics in Japan in 2014 included 143kg of gold, 1,566kg of silver and 1,112 tons of copper.