Since 2016 members of Japan’s Olympic organizing committee came up with the idea to start using recycled smartphones for the Olympic medals.
Japan will now be asking the Japanese public to start donating old phones and/or small appliances to gather around eight ton of gold, silver, and bronze for the 5,000 medals given in the Olympics. Since Japan has an absence in its own mineral resources, they thought that donating old smartphones would not only be good for the environment but would also allow the people of Japan to take part in actually creating the medals. Also it will reduce a lot of waste.
In the past the medals have usually been made out of, well, metal. They would ask mining companies to donate whatever material necessary.
As of April of this year Mobile giant NTT Docomo will have 2400 collection boxes in stores, and to reach the 8-ton goal of metals be will need millions of phones.
So how does electronic waste (e-waste) work? Used consumer electronics (tablets and smartphones) contain little amounts of rare earth metals. This includes platinum, palladium, gold, silver, lithium, cobalt, and nickel. Other electronics (home appliances and scrap cars) also contain these metals, along with iron, base metals, copper, lead, and zinc. Then the refining and/or recycling companies will collect all of the e-waste. They will then use a chemical process to separate the metals. This work is usually done in China, India, and Indonesia.
In my opinion using old smartphones and tablets for used metals is great. With there being a limit to resources on Earth, it’s amazing to be recycling these products and it makes us think more about how we’re affecting the environment. I think Japan is making a step in the right direction with making the Olympic medals out of scrap metal, and hopefully this will inspire all countries to start recycling and reusing these materials.