The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Medals Are Made From Recycled Cell Phones

published Jul 29, 2019
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The upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be all about going for the gold—and the green. A competition challenged professional designers and design students to create Olympic and Paralympic medals made from recycled electronic devices, and the winning design recently made its debut.

Created by Junichi Kawanishi, the updated medals are 100% sustainable and comprised of precious metal recovered from donated smartphones that members of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics organizing committee collected from all over Japan.

Sticking to Olympic tradition, the front of the new medal bears the image of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, posing in front of the Panathinaikos Stadium in Athens. The reverse side features the Tokyo 2020 “ichimatsu moyo” emblem along with the five Olympic rings.

Credit: Courtesy Tokyo 2020

The medal ribbons were made from chemically recycled polyester fiber, which produces less CO2 than its counterparts. The ribbons design also reflects the local culture and tradition with the inclusion “kasane no irome,” a Japanese technique in which color schemes are used define the layering and colors in kimono design.

The hand-crafted medal cases were created from Japanese ash wood by local craftsmen; each case features its own unique pattern.

“It is a great honor that my design was selected for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Medal,” said Kawanishi of his winning entry. “I never dreamed that the design I submitted only as a memorial to this lifetime event would be actually selected.”

“With their shining rings, I hope the medals will be seen as paying tribute to the athletes’ efforts, reflecting their glory, and symbolizing friendship,” he added.

The public dropped more than 6 million cell phones at collection centers, and authorities collected more than 87,000 tons of used electronic devices, which produced the 70 pounds of gold, more than 7,700 pounds of silver, and 4,850 pounds of bronze to be used in the creation of the medals.