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London Olympics waste targets met

A review of LOCOG’s achievements at the London 2012 Olympic Games claims the sustainability body met its waste targets but contamination of some bins was a problem.

The London Games 2012, which aimed to be the “most sustainable ever”, fulfilled its targets, according to a report published by the Commission for Sustainable London.

Shaun McCarthy, the commission chair, said: “London 2012 was the first summer Games to declare a target of zero waste to landfill with 70% reused, recycled or composted. Typical events achieve 15%. We are confident from our observations that this will be achieved.”

The report was based on random samplings of waste and recycling bins, interviews and site inspections. A general sampling of the bin system found that there was low-to-moderate levels of contamination.

McCarthy praised the: “Meticulous attention to recyclable and compostable packaging, an innovative and eye catching three bin system for spectators and exclusive use of a materials recycling facility have combined to make this possible.”

“The system was not perfect but low levels of litter and higher than normal levels of source segregation provide another exemplar that others would do well to follow,” he added.

The report revealed there were issues with contamination of some of the waste streams at the event.

The commission reported a lack of residual waste bins across all venues and said “there is a concern that this may have resulted in contamination of these [recycling] streams with residual waste”.

Where there were residual waste bins, these were the most likely to attract the highest level of waste that could have been streamed into other bins, while recycling bins attracted the least contamination. This indicates that consumers used the precautionary principle when it came to whether their waste was recyclable.

But contamination was very high where bag holders were used rather than bins. And the commission reported confusion that bins branded by sponsors led consumers “to match the sponsored product to the bin rather than to the waste stream (thereby contaminated waste streams)”. LOGOC acted upon this by covering up the branding with stickers for the Paralympics.

Caterers contributed significantly to contamination by placing food waste in the wrong bins. Attempts to reuse food from the site by donating it to charity met a barrier when charities would not accept hot food.

Overlay such as banners, hoardings and scrim - designed to be reusable - were thrown away in skips.

Recommendations from the report for better waste separation at future events include better signage and the active involvement of volunteers to help spectators use the bins. It also recommends eradicating food packaging that needs recycling or throwing away.

The full sustainability report with complete data is expected next month.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Has anyone else seen the Environment Agency's data which shows vast amounts of waste coming from the Olympic London boroughs during the construction and use periods? I assume the Commission hasn't looked at this?

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