London Olympic Sustainability

London Olympic Sustainability

Executive summary

Olympic and Paralympics’ Games have a significant impact on the ecological, economic and social environments to the host countries. On the other hand, the Olympics host possibility for growth of the community, using sustainable solutions. The international Olympic Committee recognized the need for the connection between the sustainable development of the Olympic Games and positive development of the host community. This report examines the significance of sustainability in the current era of the sporting industry. This report provides an overview of the significance of sustainability in the current sports as well as its interplay in the London Olympics 2012 sports. Furthermore, the report lays out the significance of sustainability acting in accordance with the environment and others human related aspects. Moreover, the report also provides the possible insights for the possibility of incorporation of sustainability model in the long-term sustainable living. Amongst the stakeholders who provided positive inputs were the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympics Games. The London organizing committee identified the need for sustainable management as a pre- requisite for their application to host the Olympic Games. In every large event, waste management poses a huge risk. Therefore, this report will focus on the different strategies used in the 2012 London Olympics to manage wastes.



Olympic and Paralympics Games attract millions of people from different backgrounds, which can have a significant impact on the ecological, economic and social environments to the host countries (Girginov & Hills, 2008). Evidence is growing on the potential impacts of Olympic Games on the destruction of ecosystems. Large events bring together many people, which have the potential of negatively influencing the natural and social environments (Shipway, 2007). This includes the increased amounts in the resources used, which could lead to depletion of resources. For example, the majority of resources such as timber are used during the planning and sources of infrastructure. The new ISO management standard model adopted to assess events sustainability and management systems. The standards were set to ensure that all the events from a local celebration of Olympic events left behind positive outcomes with reference to the environmental, social, and economic benefits. These events should minimize wastage of material, consumption of energy or straining of the local communities (Shipway, 2007).

The organizers placed a lot of effort to deliver a greenest Olympic and Paralympics games in London 2012. For example, the square mile of the derelict land in the East of London transformed through plantation of thousands of trees and wetlands to attract wildlife. The use of seven small turbines and a boiler using solar panels ensured that the energy supplied with the games was renewable. The LOCOG integration of waste materials and food packaging policies were highly essential to the achievement of sustainable waste management. However, there is a need for stronger designs and connections between waste management police to minimize residual wastes.


The initiatives and measures adopted in the games

The initiatives in the London 2012 Sustainability Plan were structured under five themes. These are climate change, waste management, biodiversity, inclusion and healthy living.  The issues handled include carbon management, in the effort to deliver low carbon games. The plan also aimed at providing effective waste management and sustainable transport solutions to all the participants. Through the adoption of this plan, the games would be useful in highlighting the economic benefits of sustainability. This also ensured that the Olympic Park legacy left, contributed positively to the regeneration of the communities living within east London.

Furthermore, the Velodrome built using 100% sustainable-sourced timbers, whilst the copper boxes covered with recycled copper were the targets. This helped in the reduction of water use by an approximate margin of 40%, through recycling rainwater (Hughes, 2013). The London 2012 games were the first games to measure its carbon footprints throughout the entire project.  It achieved the reduction of carbon emissions as the materials used have lower carbon emissions. Through their sustainable zero waste policy to landfills strategic management, the organizers of the games successfully managed to recycle 400, 000 tons of carbon dioxide.  The use of alternative fuel vehicles and the innovative demonstration projects using rivers made the achievement of effective means of transport a reality.

The experience of the waste related contractors suggesting the removal of landfilling as an option for waste management was a successful and powerful incentive. This allowed the activation of other different channels through which new supply chain for reusable products strived. This initiative influenced a wider industry, especially the compost manure and recycling industries. Furthermore, due to the   decline in carbon emissions and other Co benefits from zero land filling policy adopted in this sustainable strategy indicated greater business enhancement

Detailed review of sustainable waste management

In large events, large amounts of diverse wastes are generated. In this case, it is essential to have a sustainable model for waste management. The 2012 Olympic Games acted as a huge experimentation on the sustainable management of waste in huge events, with its achieved degree of success.  The LOCOG integration of waste materials and food packaging policies were highly essential to the achievement of sustainable waste management (Tang, 2013). The different bins were available during the events, with the bespoke bins used in front of the houses while the colored wheelie bins used in the workforce areas. In the places where the bins were not applicable such as at security malls, the three bag holder bins were adopted. In addition, the bins for ponchos were initially placed in addition to the three bins but, as the games progressed, their use became more vestigial  and were therefore removed. However, not all the venues had the supply of a bespoke bin system, therefore, the majority of these areas relied on the existing waste management systems to collect their waste. Some of the sustainable waste management initiatives are discussed below:

  1. a) Food packaging: The LOCG adopted the packaging guidelines that ensured that food packaged for the games were either compostable or recyclable using a single waste management stream. The food packaging recommended included cups, cold drinks, sugar bags and tin foil pie containers. It is therefore advisable in the future to conduct more extensive pretesting catering waste management  systems to bring about a clearer picture. Furthermore, large quantities of unwanted food are inevitable in any event. Given the security imbedded in the uncertainty challenges of food operations, it is therefore, recommendable that the future   games host charity events, which copes with a rapid distribution of the foods.
  2. b) Front house waste management: The LOCOG had plans in place for handling the smaller wastes from the households, compared the larger wasted from the caterers in dining areas. During this process, the value of the front of house waste source, separation strategies were reviewed for its potential sources of contamination. From this arrangement, the recycle bins attracted lesser contamination, comparable to the residual waste bins, which had higher levels of wastes. In the absence of the bins, there were prevalently higher levels of contamination (Hughes, 2013). The assistance of volunteering people to find the right bins was evident in the athletics villages. Different factors could have contributed directly to the areas that recorded higher levels of waste. These factors include factors such as lack of assistance for spectators, and the lack of clear signal on the bag holders.  The participants faced a high level of confusion on the items that were neither recyclable nor compostable. However, the mechanism set for the separation of the different wastes were effective, therefore, this method can be potentially reliable in the future.
  3. c) Littering and bin emptying management: The LOCOG employed the cleaning contractors to have the responsibility of picking and emptying of the litter at different points. The bins were well emptied on time, with some minor exceptions. In addition, from the general observations made, there was very little litter at any of the venues with the exception of the litter found in the food area. Many factors caused the reduced levels of litter at all the venues. For example, the spectators had limits on the amount of foods brought to the venues. Other factors include the high availability of the bins and the respect of the spectators to the venue.
  4. d) Waste signage and messaging: The signage directing people to different litterbins were reviewed in the course of the games to some clearer messaging directions. The waste signage was present on the bespoke bin systems and in some other instances in the other types of bins. On each of the venues, the spectators received requests to carry their rubbish. The information on how to handle wastes was also part of the information provided at the entrance tickets. From this, the waste signage was apparently clear. However, the areas of confusion were rectified leading to the consumers matching the sponsor product to the bins rather than to the waste stream available.
  5. e) The Zero Landfill Policy: The London 2012 Olympic Games plan had the objective of sending zero waste to landfills during the game period. This was achieved through designing out wastes, maximization of its product life cycle and heroin than purchasing of items for use in composting the waste materials (Poynter, 2008). Furthermore, an incinerator with energy recovery efficiently ensured a higher percentage of recycling the materials used. The LOCOG had the objective of treating all the wastes as potential resources. They set up plans to ensure that 70 percent of the total wastes in from the games were recycled. Three-bin waste bin, collection systems were applicable in the collection of different recyclable materials for different uses (Gold & Gold, 2013). For example, the food wastes and packaging materials were channeled to the bin labeled recyclable and the other composting and non-recyclable materials were channeled to the non-recyclable waste streams.
  6. f) Post collection waste treatment: The wastes collected from the venues were brought by the contractors to their various barking waste transfer stations for manual inspection of the wastes. The wastes are then transferred to subcontractors for in vessel composting. The residual waste was sent to the incineration facilities for treatment as recyclable waste products. The recyclable waste was sorted into paper, bottles cards and residual waste (Zhou et al., 2013). During this time, the waste contractors applied different additional manual inspections to the waste to improve on the rates of waste segregation. However, through the valuable information from the waste contractor, the LOCOG was able to incorporate new incentives to the waste management policies, which improved overall handling of the waste at the facility.

Survey on the effectiveness of London 2012 sustainable waste management

A survey was conducted on 50 students from GSM London.  This survey had the aim of gathering information on whether London 2012 Olympic Games delivered attained their intended objectives.  Sampling was random irrespective of age and gender.  A set of   questionnaires was formulated, and the students were requested to fill in the questionnaires, after seeking their consent to participate in the survey. The names of the correspondents were kept anonymous   to keep their privacy. The students were handed the questionnaires to fill in and return them after a period of 3 days. The interviews were conducted for both the students that attended the Olympic Games and the ones that did not attend. Amongst the sampled students, 45 gave complete correspondents with the questionnaires and interviews.

From the survey, the majority of the correspondents had positive views on the sustainability achievements of the Olympic Games in London.  A group of students that had attended the Olympic Games was impressed with massive turbines and the workaround made to reduce the use of vehicles for transportation.  The majority of the individual interviews said that the existing venues were used wherever it deemed practical. The use of temporary structures in the place of steel resulted in carbon savings of 27% (Gold & Gold, 2013). Furthermore, the use of biomass boilers and photovoltaic arrays on the building were essential in the generation of renewable energy.   After the games, the surrounding communities benefitted from the heating system and water efficient methods of conservation.

From the results, the majority of the individuals interviewed said that the waste management was effective, with all the spectators and LOCOG staff utilized the bins effectively.  Although there was a shortage of the bins in all the venues, other mechanisms were adopted such as recycling of the compostable bins, which raised concerns about the possibility of contamination.  The design of the bins was well labeled though it was seen as a point of concern for most of the spectators found it challenging to discern the differences of the bins. Despite the positive success of the games waste management strategies, some of the individuals interviewed retorted that they were disappointed about the three-bin system used. This is because the people who attended the games did not differentiate the three bins and ended up putting all the garbage in a single bag.

In general, it was apparent from the survey that London 2012 set sustainable targets. Some of the targets include the measurements of carbon footprints over the entire games period. Through the implementation of the Zero Games landfill policies and the delivery of the effective transportation, system crowns the success of the Olympic Games successes in London.  The organizers of the games also supported the consumption of local seasonal and organic food products, which resulted in healthy living. Besides healthy living, it reduces the amount of litter due to the purchase of high proceeds food cans.   Organic food wastes are easier to compost compared to the processed foods.

The spectator behavior has a high influence from their own experiences, and the experiences witnessed from their peers. Therefore, it is highly recommendable in the future to eradicate food packaging requiring recycling. This will eventually greatly reduce the confusion amongst the spectators about which waste goes in each bin. In addition, further active guidance from the volunteers at each venue is essential in ensuring that the messages used are clear.


The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympics games delivered broadly on the set sustainability objectives as the organizers and all the stakeholders involved met their targets. However, the organizers are still ongoing with their plans for the achievement of the carbon savings plan during the games. The commission was though disappointed by the slow development of the comprehensive energy plan, which did not consider the prospects for further reduction in carbon emissions. Therefore, the 2012 sustainable model is an inspiration for the development of a sustainable management system. The development of variable standards for different events introduced in 2007 rapidly modified to conform to the international standards of ISO 20121. This standard is currently rapidly gaining prominence in becoming the   internationally renowned standard for choice of the global event sectors as a marking of the significant legacy of the games.

The 2012 Olympic Games acted as a huge experimentation on the sustainable management of waste in huge events, with its achieved degree of success. In the future, it is critical for the event planners to be vigilant on the important aspects of using signage that is more direct for ease. The LOCOG integration of waste materials and food packaging policies were highly essential to the achievement of sustainable waste management.   However, there is a need for stronger designs and connections between waste management policy and the other significant aspects such as food packaging to minimize residual wastes.




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