Sustainability of the Olympics relies on its legacy

Runner at Olympic Games

The sustainable legacy of the Olympics will be compromised unless businesses are prepared to build on the ideas and experience of participating in the first ‘zero-waste Games’, say bioeconomy consultants and Olympic advisors, the National Non-Food Crops Centre (NNFCC) in a statement released today (27 June).

The government has committed to making sure that no waste generated during the Olympics will be sent directly to landfill. Over the 17 days the Games are open, it is estimated that over 3,300 tonnes of packaging waste alone will be generated, 70 per cent of which needs to be re-used, recycled or composted.

A large part of that commitment will be fulfilled by using bio plastics and recycled packaging that can be composted or in some circumstances sent for anaerobic digestion (AD). Vendors within the Olympic village will be using green designs for fast food wrappers, sandwich boxes and drinks cartons.

Since the government launched the NNFCC in 2003, it has become a leading consultancy for bioenergy, biofuels and bio-based products and is now calling on businesses to pay attention to the Games’ demonstration of the advantages of compostable packaging for food and drink.

The major advantage of compostable packaging is that the energy stored in the end-of-life product can be released to either generate electricity or to create fertiliser or compost. And unlike traditional plastics, contamination of the packaging with leftover food is no longer an issue, as both streams will have the same final destination.

The fear is that unless producers take up this new form of sustainable packaging after the Games finish, the effort that’s gone into making a green Olympics “will all be for nothing”.

“The Olympics has given us a unique opportunity to showcase the advantages ofusing compostable packaging, particularly for food, and finding more sustainable end-of-life options like AD”, said Dr John Williams, Head of Materials at NNFCC. "By sharing our experiences from London 2012 and developing guidelines which can be applied to other events in the future, we will create a lasting environmental legacy for the fast food and catering trade long after the Games have finished.”