The 2012 London Olympics received a great visibility boost when they announced back in 2009 that they would be zero waste. But what does zero waste mean? Simply, all the waste would be used anew as a resource, either as a fuel or as raw material for new products. Although easy to conceive, it has proven to be trickier a task than imagined. According to a new report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and BioRegional, the waste and carbon generated was more than expected.
The Olympic Delivery Authority’s goals included “recycling and reusing 90% of waste, delivering more than half the materials needed by sustainable transport, using natural remediation methods to clean soil, barges to take away segregated waste through newly dredged waterways and using only legal and sustainable timber sourced through a supplier panel”, as Sir John Armitt, ODA chair states. Some targets were exceeded forming success stories, while others were not met. Some claim that a great effort was made, others that the case was no gold metal. But what do the facts say?
- 80% of all contaminated soils were cleaned on-site and reused, saving £68 million
- 98.5% of demolition material was either reused or recycled, diverting at least 412.000 tons of waste from landfill
- 100% of the timber used on-site was certified as legal and sustainable
- 530m3 of rainwater harvested from the velodrome roof will be used each year to flush toilets and irrigation
- 2.000 tons of waste were removed from the Olympic park by barge
- 3.200 tons of carbon will be saved each year by using a 3.3 MW gas-fired combined cooling, heating and power engine and a 3MW biomass boiler to generate heat and power
- 60.000 of silt, gravel and rubble, as well as tyres, shopping trolleys, timber and an entire car were removed from the waterways on the site.
- 178 bird habitats and 66 bat habitats have been created on the park’s bridges with 635 nest and bat boxes installed throughout the site.
- 170.000 tons of recycled and secondary aggregate were used in concrete mixes, saving 30.000 tons of embodied carbon and eliminating more than 70.000 lorry movements
Gold metal or not, certainly the London Olympics attempted something that has no Games has attempted before. One can only hope that this pioneering initiative will be followed to the Olympics to come, and who knows. Maybe on the Rio 2016 Olympics we will be discussing about a low-carbon Olympic torch after all.