Scheduled to take place in Tokyo, the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics are just around the corner and there’s no time to waste. Conducting these games is a monumental task for the home country and Japan is more than ready for the task. In fact, they’ve got a futuristic, eco-friendly technique put in place for one of the most important aspects of the games – the medals.
The Tokyo 2020 Medal Project has been established because this year, the medals for the games are going to be made out of materials that one normally wouldn’t associate with medals. Japan has decided to make the medals entirely out of old electronic devices. So far they’ve used 78,985 tons of electronic waste and this includes more than 6 million mobile phones.
These devices actually have all that Japan needs to manufacture medals. Though we do wonder whether they can make ribbons out of that old material too? Can waste plastic be stretched so far?
But don’t start opening up your old phones just yet because that won’t do you much good. Out of all the thousands of tons of waste that was recycled, they were able to extract only around 70 pounds of gold, 7700 pounds of silver, and 4800 pounds of bronze from the copper and zinc. Over a period of two years, metals to manufacture around 5000 medals were extracted.
In partnership with NTT Docomo, a Japanese mobile carrier, the Tokyo 2020 Medal Project announced their campaign to collect old phones in February 2017. The people of Japan were asked to donate any old phone they had lying around. The drive started in April of 2017 and ended a few months ago. The devices were sorted and systematically dismantled for extraction. Then the parts were smelted and refined till they became metals that could be used. These extraction methods had first been used in the 2010 games which were held in Vancouver.
The medals are also designed in such a way that they represent the culture of Japan. A modern version of the ichimatsu moyo, a check pattern, and the Kasane no Irome, which is how kimonos are layered, are embossed on the medals. The colors of the Olympics are woven into the ribbon using old polyester fibers. To give the Olympics a more Japanese touch, artists are creating anime character versions of each participating country’s flag.
With these efforts, Tokyo 2020 hopes to contribute to making society more eco-friendly and sustainable. This is the legacy they want the 2020 Games to leave behind. Each medal also represents the spirit of the participants and celebrates the diversity of the Olympics and Paralympics. Their brilliance is intended to be a representation of the warmth of the friendship that pervades between countries.
Let’s hope that more countries take their example from Japan and that we all begin to think this way in our daily lives. The world needs it now more than ever.