Report on 8/16/01 Recycling Forum at Salt Lake Olympics
By Gary Liss
Consultant to GrassRoots Recycling Network

The Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) for the Olympics convened a Recycling Forum on August 16 in Salt Lake City that I attended on behalf of the GrassRoots Recycling Network. A lot of progress was made, but more remains to be done. Below is a list of the recommendations from that meeting, and a list of the attendees. GRRN is hopeful that top management of the Olympics will adopt these recommendations quickly to enable staff to accomplish as many of these as possible in the short time remaining before the Olympic Games.

Good News

  • The Forum supported a two-bin system for Front of House (FOH) areas where the spectators would be located. The Forum agreed that it was important to engage the public in separating materials as part of the Olympics Zero Waste goal. The Forum also felt that SLOC had DESIGNED OUT WASTE from FOH, and felt that should be part of the message of Zero Waste included in the SLOC Solid Waste and Recycling Plan, and education and training activities.
  • Forum agreed to goal of greater than 90% diversion of waste from landfills and incineration to be included in SLOC Solid Waste and Recycling Plan. Forum encouraged SLOC to highlight the penalties to the contractor for not meeting its 85% diversion goal and the incentives for the contractor to go beyond that.
  • The Forum supported multiple source-separated streams for Back of House (BOH) areas where athletes and media will be located, for office paper, cardboard, and other materials for which SLOC is still working to develop programs. SLOC will source separate food waste and other compostables from BOH food preparation areas.
  • SLOC announced that they are negotiating with companies to provide biodegradable plates and bowls for all food services. If they are able to get those, SLOC would like to customize menus to be able to be served in the products commercially available. The Forum did not expect much food waste or food paper from FOH, given the price of foods to be sold. Any compostables collected will be recovered at the MRF and composted. Reject materials and impurities will be removed through a positive sort and screening at the MRF, and all organics will be composted.
  • Extremely stringent security plans will require all participants to go through magnetic screens (like at airports) and searches of bags being carried into the venues. No glass will be allowed from the public on site. No food and beverages will be allowed in from the public. This will eliminate most of the contamination problem experienced with the recycling system at the Sydney Olympics.
  • SLOC will use and wash reusable utensils in the Olympic Village. SLOC will use a variety of substitutes for traditional food and service items (detailed below). SLOC will not provide box meals for Opening or Closing ceremonies, and will limit box meals to only volunteers or staff that cannot come to central locations. Box meals will be placed in paper bags, which will be composted. Most athletes will be served deli or hot meals in central locations.
  • The Forum recommended use of biodegradable bags to line collection bins if technically and economically feasible. If that doesn't work, the Forum recommended SLOC explore with TREX to recycle the liner bags to be collected.
  • The Forum supported training all 18,000 Olympic volunteers on solid waste and recycling messages (including "Clean as you go"), and to solicit volunteers from corporate sponsors specifically to help monitor and educate on source separation system. SLOC will add educational section about this to Staff and Volunteer Handbook that is almost done.
  • SLOC used recycled content building materials in the 3 buildings that needed to be built for the Olympics. C&D materials that are expected are cardboard, wood, cabling and carpet. SLOC intends on composting wood, recycling cardboard, and having vendors take back as much carpet and other items as possible. Details will be included in SLOC Solid Waste and Recycling Plan.
  • SLOC will sell equipment and furniture at dissolution of SLOC at end of March 2002.
  • SLOC agreed to explore the use of leases, "net-cost" purchase agreements (cost to SLOC AFTER considering level of buyback of collection bins from SLOC), or sharing costs for recyclables bins with surrounding host cities and local commercial venues to reduce the costs of obtaining additional recycling bins needed for 2-sort system.
  • The Forum supported use of different colors for the FOH bins and lids, to help clearly identify acceptable materials. The Forum supported blue bins to be used for bottles and cans, with clear consistent signage for the bins at eye level and on the bins. Forum supported having an opening appropriate for the items to go into it, on the side of the container. Forum supported different colored bags for liners to match uses of the bags, to be co-collected in same trucks. The Forum supported use of clear bags BOH so MRF workers can see what's in the bags. The Forum supported the use of a mix of whatever containers are available or most economical for BOH, including existing 750 garbage containers in venue areas, and possible use of rolling carts and cardboard collection containers indoors. The Forum supported the use of cleaning staff multiple sweeps through bleachers at venues to collect bottles and cans for recycling in different bags than other materials.
  • Legacy Programs: Green Valley Recycle & Compost, LLC (GVR, the MRF and compost operator) has arranged for 2 composting sites: one in Davis County next to Wasatch Landfill and one near Salt Lake City Airport, close to their MRF (on the grounds of Weyerhaeuser). GVR will use a variety of composting technologies, including package commercial systems (e.g., NaturTech and Earth Tubs), and an aerated static pile. This is one of the major recycling legacies of the Olympics, as there have been NO food waste composting facilities in the region to date. GVR is developing a 12-year agreement with Weyerhaeuser. The Forum encourages communities in the Valley to collect commercial food waste from restaurants, hotels, venues and Special Events after the Olympic Games for composting in this system.
  • The Forum asked SLOC to complete a final Solid Waste and Recycling Plan in a form that could be posted on their website and be made public, to highlight all the things that are going to be done.


  • The Forum proposed that the two sorts of "Resource Recovery Stations" be "Bottles and Cans" and "Mixed Recyclables." The Forum did not support including paper with bottles and cans, as it was felt the liquids from the bottles and cans in this setting would contaminate the paper. As Salt Lake City collects paper from its street-side recyclables containers in the downtown area outside the Olympic venues, it would have been more consistent for attendees to have paper included in with bottles and cans. A compromise struck was to have paper reuse bins at entrances and exits to supplement the basic 2-bin sort on a limited basis.
  • The Forum did not support having a "compostables" stream in FOH areas, as it was felt there would be little materials for this stream, and it would be more confusing to the public. Any compostables collected will be recovered at the MRF and composted.
  • Ironically, because GVR has committed to achieving 85% diversion without any FOH source separation, it is difficult to project how much more diversion could be obtained from a more aggressive source-separation program. The SLOC Solid Waste and Recycling Plan will still rely significantly on the processing system to accomplish its Zero Waste goal.
  • SLOC indicated that they would still use "portion control" packages for condiments, although they will place them in self-serve area rather than giving to everyone automatically. SLOC will use fountain drinks and cups, and don't have a market for the cups. Other problem materials still remain, including: FOH utensils (they have not found any biodegradable ones that work well), cups for fountain drinks (not clear if they will be recyclable), cup lids, straws and cabling.


Attachment 1
August 16, 2001, List of Olympic Recycling Forum Attendees

Attachment 2
Back of House (BOH) Source Separation Plans

Attachment 3
Suggested Food & Beverage Packaging Substitution List

Attachment 4
SLOC Waste & Packaging Guidelines
As of July 25, 2001

SLOC is asking each of their staff to think about the items they will be using and bringing on to the venues. What type of packaging do they come in? Do they have packaging or wastes associated with them that will ultimately be thrown away? SLOC asks staff to talk to their buyer/distributor and ask them to remove or change the packaging before it gets to SLOC.

Gary Liss
Gary Liss & Associates
4395 Gold Trail Way
Loomis, CA 95650-8929
Tel: 916-652-7850
Fax: 916-652-0485

  Contact Us © Zero Waste USA ©
Archive maintained by Laughter On Water