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Why do we recycle used mobile phones to make the Olympic medals?—Miraikan

Miraikan—The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation

The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games kicked off the Tokyo 2020 Medal Project to produce the medals extracting gold, silver, and bronze from used small electronic appliances such as mobile phones in April 2017.

On September 1, 2018, Miraikan—the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Odaiba, Tokyo) invited Kohmei Halada, Distinguished Emeritus Scientist of the Research Center for Strategic Materials, the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) as a lecturer and held the talk session titled “The reason for making gold medals from mobile phones—thinking of Japan’s Urban-Mine of the world’s leading reserves.”

Halada explained that massive excavation of natural metal resources and inappropriate disposal of used consumer electric products have been leading tremendous environmental destruction. He stressed the importance of recycling of used electric products, that is necessary not only to secure depleting metallic natural resources, but also to protect environment from destruction.

In Japan, recycling of used electronic devices is not advanced and about 90% of them are still buried in homes. “Many people have negative image of recycling and small gadgets do not take space even if they are kept at home. These are reasons collection is impeded,” Halada explained. The lecture drew a lot of positive opinions from participants, such as, “I realized that we consumers are responsible for the first step of recycling,” and “I am going to actively participate in recycling.”

Cooperating with the program, Miraikan has set a collection box beside the reception desk on the third floor until December 27.

JST, an integrated organization of science and technology in Japan, establishes an infrastructure for the entire process from the creation of knowledge to the return to the society. For more information, visit http://www.jst.go.jp/EN/