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Medals at Tokyo Olympics may be made from discarded smartphones

Nothing is set in stone yet, but if the proposal is approved, then athletes at the 2020 Summer Olympics may be given medals from recycled parts found in old smartphones and other recycled small gadgets.

Cities that host the Olympics usually ask mining companies to donate metals so they can create medals. However, Japan may not have to do that because the gold and silver recovered from small electronics in the country is about the equivalent of 16 percent of the world’s total reserves.

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In 2012, 700kg of copper, 1,210kg of silver and 9.6kg of gold was used to produce medals for the Summer Olympics in London. In comparison, in 2014, 143kg of gold, 1,566kg of silver and 1,112 tons of copper was recovered from recycled small consumer electronics in Japan.

Silver is in high demand, so it’s not clear if the country will be able to recycle enough silver in time for the Summer Olympics.

The idea of using metals from recycled electronics was first discussed at a June meeting in Tokyo. The meeting discussed cooperation proposals for the Tokyo 2020 operation plan, with a focus on a sustainable future. Those who attended the meeting included Japan’s Ministry of the Environment, officials on the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic organizing committee and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

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