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Posted by Emma on 14/03/13

Closing the loop on waste: Zero Waste Olympics 2012

 London 2012 has been heralded as the greatest event that the UK has ever held, as well as the first ever Zero Waste Olympics and Paralympics of the modern era. To achieve this, LOCOG decided that 70% of waste would be recycled, reused or composted. The rest would go to energy-from-waste facilities. So with an estimated 8,500 tonnes of waste to landfill including packaging and food service items, organisers needed to make sustainability a serious priority.

As part of LOCOG’s vision London Bio Packaging were privileged to be chosen as the official packaging supplier, providing over 120millon pieces of compostable or recyclable packaging to over 50 different food businesses across 100’s of venues. Not only was this extremely important during the games, but in order to encourage sustainability through the Olympic park post games LBP decided to adhere to the same waste stream format of London 2012- in particular the eco symbols & EN13432 certification logo for on-pack recycling.

One of the greatest challenges of all, was to predict how people would behave on the day in an environment where recycling would not necessarily be front of mind. These challenges where what enabled us to identify the areas that had potential to create waste and then employ strategies up front to support LOCOG in decisions for the logos and waste stream channels. The labelling and bins needed to be as simple as possible to reduce contamination to a minimum.

To achieve this, the bulk of event waste (primarily food waste and associated packaging) was channelled into three primary streams: recycling; food and compostable packaging; and non-recyclables. These were colour coded and complemented by simple and consistent iconography. Colour-coded icons were on much of the food and drink packaging that was available in venues and corresponded to the waste bins themselves, which also had colour coordinated bin liners.

An estimated 14 million meals were served during the Games with a peak tonnage of 300 tonnes a day of waste collected at the Olympic Games and 100 tonnes at the Paralympic Games. LOCOG believed that the 70% target could only be achieved by introducing compostable packaging. They also believed that having the compostable packaging stream allowed for the recyclable stream to be of higher quality. 

“We believe that to avoid a continual ‘reinventing of the wheel’ there needs to be greater consistency (or streamlining) of materials used by contract caterers at a sector level; a move to a more consistent approach nationally to recycling communications (particularly in an ‘on the go’Context) and a proper consumer campaign around the On Pack Recycling  Label scheme.” LOCOG.

London 2012 Olympic waste stream symbol

London Bio Packaging new waste stream symbol

Communicating our message:

“Our aim was promote sustainable behaviour and the huge national effort of the games to ensure this would be a legacy that would have a lasting influence of the way people think and behave about packaging waste. Since London 2012 we have being actively telling the sustainable story of the games through visual representations and creative thinking, drawing in a broad demographic. We use The Games as a best in class example of how ‘Closing the loop’ on waste can be achieved on such a large scale, but could just as easily be applied to small delis and independent food retailers.

As a result of the video and other marketing efforts since London 2012, London Bio is now viewed as leader in sustainable packaging solutions and has seen an noticeable increase in larger companies not only showing an interest in London Bio as a supplier, but also an increased awareness of other ways they can becoming more sustainable.







To see video click here


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