Tokyo wants to make Olympic medals from old smartphones

The project seeks gold, silver, and bronze from unused gadgets

tokyo japan
Credit: Martyn Williams

Japan will kick off a drive this week to collect old smartphones and other portable gadgets so that they can be turned into medals for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

The project will be launched on Thursday by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government with a goal of collecting up to 2 million used devices to recycle.

Gadgets like smartphones contain small amounts of precious metals in their chips and circuit boards. The quantities are tiny but they're valuable enough to make recovery worth the expense.

In the case of a smartphone, there's about 0.048 grams of gold, 0.26 grams of silver, and 12.7 grams of bronze. To make the roughly 5,000 medals that will be awarded in 2020, organizers will need 10 kilograms of gold, 1,230kg of silver, and 736kg of bronze. (The amount of gold is much less because those medals are plated and not solid gold).

The campaign is asking citizens to turn in used smartphones, digital cameras, video cameras, audio players, portable game devices, remote controls, electronic calculators, GPS units, and AC power adapters.

While the project will begin small with a single collection point at a convenience store in the Metropolitan Government building, it will go national in April when consumers will be able to donate used gadgets at 2,400 shops of mobile phone carrier NTT DoCoMo.

To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon