Making Olympic History

In September 2000, 600,000 spectators per day will watch elite athletes set new standards of athletic performance at the Sydney, Australia Olympic Games. Whether they know it or not, those spectators also will be helping to set another record - for integrated waste management at an Olympic Games.

The waste management strategy's development started when Sydney was just one of several cities in 1993 bidding for the right to host the Games.

As part of its bid, Sydney submitted "The Environmental Guidelines for a Summer Olympic Games" to the International Olympic Committee. This 25-page document contained more than 100 commitments to the environment, with approximately one-third related to solid waste. [See "Sydney's Solid Waste Commitment" left]. Here, Sydney obligated itself to develop a waste management system that not only was efficient, but also was environmentally friendly.

Five years later, after winning the bid to host the games, the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) released the "Sydney 2000 Olympic Games Integrated Waste Management Solution." This blueprint for managing waste at the Olympic and Paralympic Games is based on two key principles: one being 100 percent responsibility - meaning everyone is responsible for managing waste, including manufacturers, caterers, the public, etc. - and the other being the principle that waste is a secondary resource that can be reprocessed or reused.

Developing the Plan To develop its plan, Sydney recognized the importance of waste management at recent Olympic Games, including the 1994 Lillehammer, Norway Winter Olympic Games, the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympic Games and the 1998 Nagano, Japan Winter Olympic Games. All three had focused on landfill waste diversion via composting and using biodegradable foodware.

The waste strategy also needed to mesh with existing trends and practices within Australia and New South Wales.

Australian governments have set ambitious waste reduction targets and launched innovative trials. The Australian federal government's National Waste Minimisation and Recycling Strategy establishes specific recycling goals and a target to reduce landfilled waste by 50 percent by the year 2000, based on 1990 per capita levels.

The government of New South Wales had set an even higher target of reducing landfilled waste by 60 percent.

In addition, waste reduction goals for specific packaging industries have been developed by the Australia and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC). These form the basis for voluntary reduction agreements within the industry.

In late 1996, the New South Wales state government's waste management agency, Waste Service NSW, encouraged staff at SOCOG to help develop the Olympic waste strategy.

As a first step, SOCOG held internal workshops in late 1996, followed in early 1997 by external workshops with more than 30 organizations, including private sector industry, government agencies and environmental groups.

Workshop participants were excited about applying the concepts of integrated waste management to an event the size of the Olympic Games, which will generate an estimated 4,500 tons of waste plus 1,000 tons during the Paralympic Games.

It was clear that the Olympic strategy should view waste as a resource for reuse or reprocessing, rather than as materials to be discarded. In particular, it was decided that to minimize landfilled waste significantly, organic waste, which comprises about 50 percent of the Olympic waste stream, needed to be reprocessed.

From these discussions, the group developed a set of principles to use as the foundation of the waste strategy: Reduce the amount of waste brought into venues through procurement strategies; promote reusing materials at Games venues; recycle materials through an appropriate infrastructure and through the design and composition of packaging materials; avoid landfilling by composting food waste and soiled fiber packaging; and educate users to further understanding and support of the system.

Waste Sponsors An important idea to come from the workshops was the concept of Olympic Waste Sponsors.

Two companies - Cleanevent, an Australian company specializing in cleaning, recycling and waste management, and SITA-BFI Waste Service Pty Ltd, a Paris-based waste transport company - had both worked at the Atlanta Olympic Games. They, along with Waste Service NSW, expressed interest in becoming official sponsors and forming a team to help develop and implement the strategy.

For the remainder of 1997, these companies worked closely with SOCOG to develop the final strategy.

Environmental groups were briefed on the strategy and it was approved by SOCOG with its full support. It was launched on Dec. 1, 1998, at Chullora Recycling Park, Waste Service NSW's waste transfer and reprocessing facility, which will handle most of the Games' materials.

In 1998, Visy Recycling, an Australian recycling and packaging company, joined the sponsorship team to provide packaging and recycling services.

The Strategy The essence of the integrated waste management solution is the management of the total waste cycle, from the design, manufacturing and use of materials, such as packaging and disposable cups and plates, through their collection and reprocessing.

Input controls will limit the types of materials allowed into venues to those which can be reused or reprocessed readily. [See "What's Acceptable and What's Not," page 185].

The strategy contains a generic waste management plan, which can be adapted to each venue. It identifies 12 types of waste-generating areas, including the spectator concourse and the field of play; six waste-generating activities, such as public waste importation and office activities; and eight waste streams, such as compostable material and medical waste. [See "Twelve, Six and Eight" page 182].

It also identifies the waste handling systems. This includes the development of multiple bin systems, based on other large-scale events, and the other means by which waste will be handled.

For example, clean paper will be taken directly to a paper processing facility, recyclables will be sorted at a Waste Service NSW materials recovery facility and compostables will be treated through the Waste Service NSW biowaste facility, due to be completed in mid-1999.

In addition, quarantine and medical waste will be sterilized through an approved facility, and cooking oils will be processed into new products.

Finally, the system outlines the waste flow, which has been mapped from the generating areas to the reprocessing and disposal sites.

Using this procedure, a waste plan can be determined for any venue.

The strategy also recognizes that for the system to work it must have the understanding and support of the users.

Thus, a waste education plan is being developed to complement the strategy.

The Way Forward Currently, the "solution" is being tested at Olympic Test Events, allowing time for refinement before the actual Games begin.

With its team of four waste sponsors - Visy Recycling, Cleanevent, SITA-BFI and Waste Service NSW - SOCOG intends to maintain a high standard of hygiene and waste management within venues; implement its commitments set forth in the Environmental Guidelines; ensure consistency within and outside venues; and build on new technology and practices to minimize waste.

Overall, SOCOG intends to set a new benchmark for waste management for future Games organizers and for events in general throughout Australia and the world. WA

Jaqui Hellyer is the manager of environmental communications in the Environment Program of the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games.

Sydney's Olympic bid company made 100 commitments to the environment. The solid waste commitments include:

* Best practice waste reduction and avoidance with performance criteria for services, materials and appliances;

* Cooperation of sponsors and service providers in developing responsible corporate purchasing and waste management policies;

* Best practice waste recycling including the use of color-coded recycling stations, compost from organic waste in landscaping and recycled paper;

* Merchandising contracts that require companies to provide information on their manufacture, use and disposal practices;

* Avoiding products that have a short useful life or that use unnecessary packaging;

* Maximum use of recycled/recyclable materials;

* Using minimal food packaging while maintaining health standards;

* Using recyclable or reusable packaging;

* Using non-disposable cutlery and crockery at food outlets, when possible;

* Educating athletes, officials, the media and spectators on correct disposal practices;

* Identifying recyclable packaging to help separate and assist in collections;

* Installing recycling bins at all Games venues complemented by an education program on disposal methods;

* Transmitting information electronically, when possible, to reduce paper use; and

* Adopting special procedures for chemical, film and other photographic material disposal or recycling.

The Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games waste management system identifies up to 12 separate waste-generating areas, six waste-generating activities and eight waste streams:

Waste-Generating Areas * Spectator Concourse - devoted to people movement within venues.

* Spectator Area (seated) - where specific spectator seating arrangements are in place.

* Spectator Area (non-seated) - where event viewing can occur without seating structures, such as rowing events.

* Field of Play - where competitions take place.

* Athletes/Officials Marshalling Area - where athletes and officials congregate immediately before and after events.

* Operation Compound/Loading Area - where supplies and equipment are received, stored and dispatched.

* Media/Administration/Offices - where electronic/print media activities, venue operations or administration activities are handled.

* Sponsor Hospitality - restricted to entertainment by approved organizations.

* Medical Center - where athlete testing, and first aid/medical and veterinary services are provided.

* Quarantine Area - where controls related to disease prevention are necessary.

* Residential Area - accommodation under Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) supervision for athletes, officials and the media.

* Common Domain - areas outside ticketed boundaries, where SOCOG controls apply.

Waste-Generating Activities * Public waste importation;

* Catering, including sit down, take-out and office kitchens;

* Warehousing and receipt, including delivery and storage of goods;

* Medical/veterinary/quarantine;

* Merchandising, including sales of merchandise other than food; and

* Office activities, including photocopying, printing and faxing.

Waste Streams * Commingled containers;

* Glass;

* Clean paper and cardboard;

* Compostable;

* Cooking oil;

* Reusable (packaging, toner cartridges, pallets, etc.);

* Medical, veterinary and quarantine; and

* Residual waste.

The Sydney 2000 Olympic Games Integrated Waste Management Solution will limit the material types allowed into venues to those that can be reused or reprocessed. Acceptable and non-acceptable materials include:

Acceptable * Cardboard;

* Fiber bags;

* Compostable plastics;

* Metal/ceramic/cutlery;

* Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) containers;

* Aluminum and steel cans;

* Liquid paperboard; and

* Timber or cardboard pallets.

Non-Acceptable * Polystyrene;

* Aluminum foil;

* Plastic foodware;

* Shrink and cling wrap;

* Composite material containers; and

* Glass (in public areas).