TOKYO (Reuters) – Members of the Japanese public lined up to donate unwanted mobile phones that will be recycled into medals for the 2020 Olympic Games, as a project aimed at promoting sustainability was launched on Thursday.
The campaign kicked off at Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government building where more than 100 people dropped the used handsets into a box that displayed the number of donations.
“I came today because I thought it’s great that my old mobile phones will become medals for the 2020 Olympics Games,” said Hiromi Sakushima, a 55-year-old resident of Kawasaki, near Tokyo.
The project is part of an effort to save costs after the budget for the Tokyo Games ballooned to more than 3 trillion yen ($26.5 billion) at one point, though organizers have reduced that sum to $16.8 billion.
The Tokyo 2020 organizing committee hope to collect up to eight tonnes of metal from outdated mobile phones and small electronic appliances, from which gold, silver and bronze will be extracted to make 5,000 Olympic and Paralympic medals.
Hiroki Yamashita, who brought along 17 outdated phones from his family, said he was proud to contribute to the campaign.
“As a resident of Tokyo, it gets me really excited for these Olympic Games, which I will get to see for the first time in my life,” the 18-year-old said.
In April, collection boxes will be installed in local offices and stores of telecoms firm NTT DoCoMo Inc, which is partnering with environmental firm Japan Environmental Sanitation Center for the project.
At recent Olympic Games, the gold medals have been merely gold-plated, and they are actually made of silver, while the bronze medals are mostly copper in composition.
(Reporting by Kwiyeon Ha; Writing by Karishma Singh and Elaine Lies; Editing by John O’Brien)