Feedback
Tech

Tokyo Olympic Medals Could Be Made From Recycled Electronics

Japan is considering tapping into its mine of old consumer electronics to create Olympic medals made from the country's e-waste.

If the proposal is approved, athletes at the 2020 games in Tokyo could be awarded medals made from recycled parts found in old cell phones and small gadgets.

While the idea strays from the norm of host cities soliciting donations from mining companies, it could make sense for Tokyo, one of the world's most bustling technology hubs.

Image: Closing Ceremony 2016 Olympic Games - Olympics: Day 16
Dancers perform during the 'Love Sport Tokyo 2020' segment during the Closing Ceremony on Day 16 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maracana Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. David Ramos / Getty Images file

Inside those discarded items are valuable parts that can be mined for gold, silver and bronze.

According to Nikkei, the gold and silver in Japan's e-waste amounts to 16 percent and 22 percent of the world's supply, respectively, making the high-tech waste ideal for creating Olympic medals.

Even if the proposal is approved, Japan will likely have to ramp up its e-waste recycling.

The country generates about 650,000 tons of e-waste from small electronics and home appliances every year, but it has been estimated that less than 100,000 tons are collected.

Read More: Japan's Shinzo Abe as Super Mario Steals the Show at Rio Olympics Closing Ceremony

Yuko Sakita, from the nonprofit organization Genki Net for Creating a Sustainable Society, one of the groups working with organizers on the proposal, told Nikkei the idea could be used to help boost public awareness about recycling.

"In order for all Japanese people to participate in the Tokyo Olympics, we are asking companies to propose a concrete collection proposal and would like to work with the Olympic organizing committee to realize the proposal," Sakita said.

Managing the mountains of electronic waste worldwide has been one focal point of the United Nations Environment Program, which calls e-waste "one of the fastest growing waste streams in developed as well as in developing countries."

The growing landfill of electronic items has been attributed to the decreasing lifespan of computers and smartphones.