Olympics to give huge boost to recycling and composting

By Paul Gander

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Recycling, Olympic games

With the launch of the tendering process for foodservice packaging suppliers, the London 2012 Olympics organisers are providing a welcome boost to 'widely recycled' and industrially compostable materials.

Phil Cumming, corporate sustainability manager at the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (Locog), explained how the organisers aimed to achieve their 'zero waste to landfill' target. "We have a 70% target for reuse, recycling and composting, after which energy-from-waste will be an option. But reusable items in a consumer-facing environment could be challenging."

Locog's framework for food packaging follows the waste hierarchy. Crucially, it favours 'widely recycled' packaging. "Plastics are likely to be the dominant material from a recycling point of view," ​he said, listing polyethylene terephthalate (PET), high density polyethylene (HDPE) and rigid polypropylene (PP) as the polymers of choice.

When it comes to paper and board, the emphasis is on uncoated grades. Of composite liquid cartons, he said: "These may officially be deemed to be 'widely recycled', but when you talk to waste companies, you find they're actually very difficult to shift."

Much of the pack-related innovation is likely to be in the area of compostables, which from the point of view of Locog means industrially compostable materials.

On-pack disposal messages will figure prominently, said Cumming, and could include icons for guidance. He added: "Events generally perform poorly on waste, and the catering sector tends to be especially poor." ​Many events achieved recycling rates of only around 15%, he said. "We have full control over the venues and caterers, and a contract with a waste resources company. This will be one of the more interesting learnings of the Games."

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