Image: While Japan is poor in natural resources, it is one of the world's leading urban mines. (

2020 Tokyo Olympics medals to come from disused phones Image:

The 2016 Rio Olympics have come and gone. Global attention has consequently shifted to the next edition of the sporting fiesta, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The Land of the rising sun, Japan, is planning that medals to be issued at its capital host city of the Games will be sourced from disused cell phones.

A leading Japanese website, Nikkei, reports that Japan would like the medals to be sourced purely from donated electronics.

The idea isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds. Smartphones contain the gold, silver and copper that can be recycled for use in new electronics, albeit in small amounts.

All those small amounts add up, and Japan, reputed as the world’s technology leader, is looking to use those metals to make the most iconic medals in sports.

It’s estimated that 16 per cent of the world’s gold and 22 per cent of the planet’s silver are currently sitting inside tech all over Japan.

It is worthy of note that for the 2012 London Olympics, 9.6kg of gold, 1,210kg of silver and 700kg of copper — the primary component of bronze — were used to produce medals.

In comparison, the amount of precious metals recovered from discarded small consumer electronics in Japan in 2014 included 143kg of gold, 1,566kg of silver and 1,112 tons of copper.

The organisers have perfected a collection system that will engage the private sector and the central and local governments in creating awareness for citizens to donate their old and disused smartphones for the production of Olympic medals.

While Japanese may be persuaded to donate to the cause, the slight issue is that currently, Japan’s recycled precious materials are used to make electronic materials and it’s difficult to conceive how disused and donated smartphones  will be enough to make all Olympics medals for Tokyo 2020.

Japan has the largest concentration of electronics giants in the world with Sony, Canon, Panasonic, Fujitsu, Sharp, Hitachi, NEC, Epson and Toshiba, making the table.

The country is also home to international auto giants – Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Toyota, Nintendo, Mitsubishi and Subaru.


Author: Timilehin Boyinde

Oluwatimilehin Boyinde is a research writer and a social media strategist. A public affairs analyst, he writes about history, politics, sports, life matters and technology. He is passionate about happenings in Local and international political arenas. He is an avid Manchester United fan and an unapologetic Nigerian.