Waste industry fails Olympic challenge, says legacy body

27 May 2010

27 May 2010 | Steve Still

An independent body that monitors the sustainability of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games has criticised the legacy that will be left by the games’ suppliers.

Shaun McCarthy, chairman of the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012, used the example of the waste management industry in the commission’s annual report, published this week. Although he said the target of zero waste from the games was “definitely achievable”, there would be no waste management programme to meet it in East London in time for the event.

Speaking to SM, he said: “The reality is they’re going to have to export the waste from East London possibly to Bedford or maybe to South London, or possibly put it on a barge to be processed away from London. It’s not leaving a legacy. I think it’s really regrettable.”

McCarthy expressed “concern and disappointment” with the waste industry, which he said had failed to rise to the challenge of setting new standards.

Overall, the commission’s report said broad promises, made in official documents during or just after the bid, that the Olympic Park would be a “blueprint for sustainable living”, lacked definition. He called for a more detailed description of what this meant by autumn this year.

However, the report credited some suppliers with working hard on the controversial issues such as PVC use.

McCarthy said: “We raised issues around PVC. It’s not a very sustainable material and it’s not very easy to recycle. There are health issues with it in that it’s potentially carcinogenic. We pushed really hard, saying to the Olympic Delivery Authority: ‘You need to go out and get a new specification.’ We put out a challenge to the industry to come up with something new.”

An Italian company came forward and managed to combine the specification after some trial and error, he said.

The annual report does outline some key objectives it expects the Olympics to achieve by 2013. It said these sustainability objectives are expected to become common practice in the construction industry and mandatory for all major public sector works after the games.

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