Tokyo's Olympic medals were made from 78,985 tons of recycled electronic devices, including cell phones

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Tokyo's Olympic medals were made from 78,985 tons of recycled electronic devices, including cell phones
The gold, silver, and bronze in this year's Olympic medals were derived from recycled electronic devices like cell phones. Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images, Peter Dazeley/Getty Images
  • The Tokyo Olympics will award a total of 5,000 gold, silver, and bronze medals.
  • The medals were derived from recycled electronic devices, including cell phones.
  • The recycled medals are part of a larger sustainability effort at the games.

There's no more prestigious athletic award than Olympic gold, and at the Tokyo Olympics, the top competitors will take home medals with surprising origins.

This year's gold, silver, and bronze Olympic and Paralympic medals were produced from recycled small electronic devices like cell phones.

Over a span of two years, the Tokyo 2020 Medal Project collected 78,985 tons of electronic devices - including 6.21 million cell phones - from across Japan to produce the 5,000 Olympic medals that will be awarded in Tokyo. The gold, silver, and bronze elements of the devices were obtained through smelting, a process that involves heating and melting to extract a base metal.

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It's the first time in Olympic history that medals were made using recycled metal, and the first time that ordinary citizens have been involved in their production, according to the official website of the Tokyo Games.

The recycled Olympic medals are part of a larger sustainability effort at the Tokyo Games. Most famously, the Olympic Village accommodations include beds made from recycled cardboard that some theorized were designed to prevent the athletes from having sex (the theory was soon debunked).

The Olympics have increasingly come under fire for their lack of sustainability. The Olympic Stadium for the Pyeongchang Olympics in 2018, for instance, cost $100 million to make and was torn down after the games.

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