Being green in 2014
By almost any marker, London 2012 was a huge success – whether it was the number of gold medals won by Team GB or the fact that the transport system didn’t crumble under the weight of visitors.
Now that those images of sporting success are fading from view, the focus is now on examining what, specifically, the well-worn phrase ‘legacy’ actually means in the Olympic aftermath.
Organisers had set themselves a target of making the Olympics and Paralympics ‘the greenest ever’, a message reinforced by recycling bins provided by sponsors Coca Cola all over the Games’ venues.
In 2014, some of the biggest sporting events of the year will be held in Scotland: the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, and the organisers of those events and many others, are already looking at the same themes.
Waste bosses told Holyrood they hoped the events coming to Scotland would be able to continue the eff orts made to minimise their impact on the environment, and infl uence people’s behaviour in the future.
Nick Brown, Coca Cola Enterprises (CCE) associate director for recycling GB, told Holyrood, the company’s aim going into the Games was to try to change people’s behaviour patterns, both during and after the event.
During the event, Coke, which has one of its major UK plants in Scotland in East Kilbride, provided bins, one for card, cans and bottles, one for compostable materials and a third – much smaller – bin for residual waste. The aim was to direct people to recycle as much as possible.
Brown said: “We did some surveys after the Games with people who had been there and we think about 12 million people saw the recycling messaging and interacted with the bins – which normally meant they recycled something.
“Out of that survey, about 70 per cent of the people we spoke to said they were more likely to recycle at home.
“About 93 per cent said they are more likely to recycle when they are out and about – that’s a really positive story about how you can use these mass participation events, some clever messaging and some good design and infrastructure to encourage behaviour change – and afterwards, as well.”
After the Olympics, Coke produced its own ‘legacy document’ which gave an appraisal of where there had been successes – and where improvements could be made for the future.
For example, when bins were put out for the Olympics, some people mistakenly threw bottles and cans into the compost bins, because they carried a Coke advertising label – this was rectifi ed before the Paralympics later that month.
At the Commonwealth Games, similar attention is being paid to the waste that will be produced.
Organisers have set themselves the target of being a ‘low to zero waste games’. All food waste will either be composted or sent to anaerobic digestion plants to reduce the impact on landfi ll sites.
Plans for the Games’ waste strategy are still being drawn up, and not all the contractors who will be involved have been announced – although Barr, the makers of Irn Bru, are one of the main sponsors.
A spokesman for the Games’ organisers said waste and packaging from catering operations were believed to account for more than 70 per cent of the total event waste and ‘sustainability training’ will be given to all the volunteers, paid workforce and contractors who are involved with the event.
Attention will be paid to the recycling bins sited across venues to ensure that they are well used by spectators – with visual guides of what can be recycled where and “a consistency in look and feel”. The spokesman said: “Glasgow 2014 Ltd is committed to responsible environmental and sustainability standards through its planning and delivery lifecycle. We aim to stage a Games with responsible environmental and sustainability standards.
“All cleaning and waste services suppliers will be made aware at the outset that Glasgow 2014 is running low to zero waste to landfill for all Games produce and measures will be put in place to ensure that packaging is reduced at source, in line with the waste minimisation hierarchy – reduce, reuse, recycle.”
New waste regulations for businesses come in to place next year, which include the compulsory segregation of food waste.
Zero Waste Scotland, a programme delivered by the UK scheme, WRAP, with funding from the Scottish Government, to help individuals, businesses and communities to treat waste more sustainably, has already been trying to assist businesses cut what they throw out, and this has included a voluntary agreement for the hospitality and food sector, with 17 signatories in Scotland signed up, including the Balmoral Hotel and Crieff Hydro.
Businesses in the Scottish hospitality sector send more than 130,000 tonnes of waste to landfill every year, with 53,000 of that being food waste – and Zero Waste Scotland estimates that about 66 per cent of that is avoidable. It costs the industry about £61m in wasted food purchase and a further £3.5m for disposal.
Even before looking ahead to the big events of 2014, the organisation has been advising organisations how to cut waste bills: last year’s Scottish Grand National in Ayr worked with them and diverted 92 per cent of its waste from landfill, saving £3,500 in disposal costs.
“The key thing we try to talk to businesses about,” says Marissa Lippiatt, Zero Waste Scotland’s Head of Resource Efficient Scotland, “is it’s about bottom-line savings.
“We’re promoting the benefits this will bring to the environment, but actually, when you look at that associated cost, it’s bringing the bottom line down, it’s helping them to improve efficiencies.
“With regards to other events in 2014, we’re engaged with the major players, the major partners that are involved in a number of events for 2014.
“What we try to do is advise, provide support around waste and sustainability, taking into account procurement, so before the event occurs, how can we use procurement to ensure that the right messaging is on the products, if the right types of products are purchased, or the types of services that might be purchased, how we could support any event during the time it’s actually on.
“Then we’re looking at post event, how we can support, what are the key issues, how can we provide, given our experience of working with the previous events and previous organisations, help to inform future events and trying to continually improve.” Coke has set up its own ‘recycle zones’ in places that have high pedestrian traffic – such as at sports stadiums and shopping centres.
There are already 12 in Scotland with about 325 bins, with the last to open at the SECC in Glasgow.
It is also targeting other large public events such as music festivals and sports events, where it can hit home the benefits of recycling. Two more in Scotland are due to be announced for this year.
At the Olympics, the company made its aim to ensure that a bottle could be recycled back into packaging within six weeks – meaning a bottle thrown away on day one – could be back in use at that same venue by the end of the summer.
At Zero Waste Scotland, Lippiatt agrees that “there’s a correlation between behaviours that take place out of the home and behaviour at home” and the organisation has its own programmes to encourage that shift.
It has been trialling its own ‘Recycle and Reward’ scheme at nine different events, including the Celtic Hebridean Festival.
The ‘reverse vending machines’ allow people to return goods for money, tokens or vouchers.
The big public events of 2014 will be a great opportunity to embed some of these recycling messages, but Brown at Coke says it is important these are well-planned out in advance. The chain stretches from attending fans, contractors, facilities management teams and many others.
He said: “If you don’t start with quite a bold ambition about what you’re trying to achieve, the Games will be upon you and gone before you’ve had a chance to realise what you could have done.
“I hope people will look at the Games and decide that they want to have a similar vision.
In terms of waste and recycling, the number of parties involved are huge, so it does involve quite a bit of planning.
“These things can’t be introduced at the 11th hour but then I’ve heard some of the team who are managing this at the Commonwealth Games speak at a couple of forums and I think they’re in a very good position.
“I have confidence that the team who are managing this at the Commonwealth Games are very competent people – they know what they are doing.”