How London 2012 lead the way in countering recycling problems

Tuesday, 20 November 2012
By Tom Degun

Oscar Pistorius of South Africa technology in sportIn the world of 21st century sport, technology is virtually everywhere and it is helping to move performance to levels that were almost unthinkable even 20 years ago.

Perhaps one of the best examples of the 21st century man is South Africa's double leg amputee sprinter Oscar Pistoriu

Very few sports fans can forget seeing the inspirational athlete compete at both the London 2012 Olympics and the Paralympics.

The former saw him up against the world's best 400 metre runners and remarkably make the semi-final before being eliminated.

But while Pistorius may be one of the more obvious examples of technology in sport, he is far from alone.

It exists, in various composite materials such as carbon fibre, almost everywhere.

It is in tennis rackets, baseball bats, golf clubs, bike frames and skis.

Composite materials are also used for virtually every sport on water including canoeing, kayaking, sailing and surfing.

The list goes on and on and they remain ever present, even in the great sporting venues.

Taking London 2012 as our example once again, these materials were in the iconic venues such as the Olympic Stadium, the Aquatics Centre, the Velodrome and so many more.

But in the world we now live, with sustainability becoming more and more important by the day, the question must be asked of how these billions of tonnes of composite materials are recycled once they have outworn their use or are simply replaced by the latest technological equipment?

It is imperative that it goes somewhere, because the current annual worldwide carbon fibre consumption is 30,000 tonnes, with the principal markets being aircraft, racing cars and sporting goods.

One problem is that there is, at present, no practical way to recycle carbon fibre materials.

It means that over 100 tonnes of the highly valuable material goes into landfill every year in the United Kingdom alone.

Velodrome London 2012The Velodrome was one of the most sustainable and iconic venues of London 2012

All in all, this fact made London 2012's goal of a hosting a "Zero waste Games" not only challenging, but pioneering if it could indeed be achieved.

However, the London 2012 Sustainability Report published this year details just how the recycling difficulties presented by sports equipment made with composite materials can be negated.

The objective, says the report, is "to deliver a zero waste Games, demonstrate exemplary resource management practices and promote long-term behavioural change."

Outlined in the report is the core philosophy to ensuring sustainability.

"We are committed to delivering a zero waste to landfill Games and believe that all waste materials should be viewed as a 'resource'. This is one of our flagship sustainability commitments," it said.

It seems though, a general point, as there are thousands of examples of exactly how London 2012 recycled materials on the Olympic Park.

But perhaps the best example is the temporary McDonald's that was built for the Olympics and Paralympics.

McDonalds London 2012 Olympic ParkThe London 2012 Olympic Park McDonalds was the world's largest McDonald's restaurant

"McDonald's is currently diverting 100 per cent of its Olympic Park construction-related waste from landfill," the report explains.

"Ninety-eight per cent is recycled and two per cent is sent to waste to energy. All its restaurants are being designed with re-use as the primary objective. The two buildings that are being constructed (on the Olympic Park) are being provided by an events hire company and will go back into the company's hire stock after the Games.

"All internal and external furniture is being designed for re-use in the McDonald's UK refurbishment programme. Where HVAC and refrigeration plant is required these units will be sized to fit a number of 'drive-thru' restaurants and will be allocated to those with scheduled plant replacements/updates at the end of 2012. All the equipment packages will be utilised in McDonald's new build programme post-Games."

It continues: "In the Olympic and Paralympic Village catering hall, its restaurant will be built from coldroom panels. If damaged these panels are fully recyclable; however, the majority will be used to either construct new or extend the life of existing coldrooms in its restaurants after the Games. It is McDonald's ambition to achieve zero waste to landfill and the company is working with LOCOG's Sustainability team to achieve this on the Olympic Park.

McDonalds interior London 2012 Olympic ParkThe majority of panels within the Olympic Park's McDonalds will be used to either construct new or extend the life of existing coldrooms in its restaurants 

"Throughout the UK, 89.5 per cent of McDonald's primary packaging is made from renewable resources. All take-away bags, napkins and cup carriers are made from 100 per cent recycled materials and are fully compostable.

"All four McDonald's restaurants on the Olympic Park will be following LOCOG's guidelines for separating waste into compostable, recyclable and non-recyclable streams, helping achieve the zero waste to landfill target.

"McDonald's uses a number of tactics to reduce the amount of waste from across its business being sent to landfill, and many of these tactics will also be used at the Olympic Park restaurants during London 2012:

Delivery packaging is re-used where possible – for example, the delivery crates used for buns and muffins. Sophisticated forecasting systems are used to minimise food waste in restaurant kitchens.

Corrugated cardboard is recycled, and used cooking oil is collected from 97 per cent of UK restaurants and converted into bio-diesel used to fuel the delivery fleet. Both items are collected through a backhauling method, utilising the food delivery vehicles and therefore reducing emissions from any alternative means of transport.

In 2012, plastic milk bottles will also be collected from all restaurants and recycled back into milk bottles to be used by the dairy that supplies McDonald's.

"There are a number of other initiatives being rolled out across the UK. One example involves taking waste from over 220 McDonald's restaurants and sending it to Energy Recovery Facilities where it provides electricity and heat for local buildings and the national grid. Processing waste in this manner reduces carbon emissions and removes waste from landfill."

This is simply one superb example of how London 2012 suppliers were challenged to create ground-breaking solutions to recycling.

London 2012 Olympic stadium wrapDow have said its textile wrap panels are slated for recycling and reuse projects in the UK, and shelter solutions for at-risk children in Uganda and Rio.

But throughout the entire Olympic Park, perhaps no example of sustainable recycling and innovation was more visible than the iconic Olympic Stadium wrap designed by leading chemical company Dow.

The wrap, consisting of 306 individual panels, helped the Olympic Stadium become the visual centrepiece of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

With each panel approximately 25 metres high and 2.5 metres wide, the wrap stretched from the concourse ground to the upper tier of the outer stadium while also feature directional signage and shield exposed elements of the stadium from sight.

But perhaps unknown to the millions who saw it in person and the billions around the world who saw in on television; the wrap was actually an innovative sustainability solution.

Despite taking on a carbon fibre appearance, the wrap textile was a new and innovative solution based on the latest generation of Dow elastomers.

The wrap panels were made of a lightweight polyester fabric with a polyolefin elastomer-based coating, a material allows the wrap to meet LOCOG's stringent sustainability requirements while ensuring the appropriate fire protection and printability needed for stadium/stage venues.

Meanwhile the compound that coats the polyester fabric is based on the latest generation Dow elastomers. The coating technology contains highly efficient flame retardants and high performance additive technologies such as colorants, processing aids and stabilisers.

The Dow Elastomer technology, made it possible for the first time to achieve a unique combination of durability, flexibility and fire performance, while meeting also all the other performance requirements like printability, mechanical properties and abrasion resistance.

To date these combinations of requirements had only been achieved with established solutions from the market (polyvinylchloride, fluoropolymers and silicones) and not to our knowledge with a polyolefin based product.

The panels were printed with UV-curable inks, a product that meets the extremely high Nordic Ecolabel environmental and climate requirements and limits emissions during the printing process by eliminating volatile organic compounds (VOC).

In addition, Dow brought the best collaborators to the table, co- creating the textile wrap solution across the supply chain. Partners included Populous, stadium architects; Cooley Group, manufacturing; Rainier, fabrication and Shade Worldwide, installation.

But more important than anything from a sustainability point of view was the post-Games uses for the wrap. From the outset of this project, Dow supported LOCOG's Sustainable Sourcing Code and factored this into every aspect of the wrap's design, manufacture, installation and post-Games use.

Dow is committed to repurposing or recycling the wrap, and has been working with leading UK building and development charity Article 25 and recycling company Axion Recycling to repurpose the entire stadium wrap. The textile wrap panels are slated for recycling and reuse projects in the UK, and shelter solutions for at-risk children in Uganda and Rio.

It was by demanding these high standards from suppliers like McDonald's and Dow that London 2012 was able to hit their "Zero waste Games" target and set an example around the world of how to counter the huge recycling difficulties presented in any major construction project.

Tom Degun is a reporter for insidethegames.biz 

Feature sponsored by

Dow icon
comments powered by Disqus