Last modified: March 22, 2019

Winter Olympics 2002
Recycling Update


By Gary Liss - January 21, 2002

I have been working for the GrassRoots Recycling Network (GRRN) to monitor the plans for the Salt Lake Olympics to achieve their stated goal of Zero Waste to landfills or incinerators. This is an update based on communication with Olympics organizers and a briefing by Coca Cola at the National Recycling Congress in Seattle on January 15.

In July of 2001, the California Resource Recovery Association (CRRA) and GRRN applauded the Salt Lake Olympics Committee (SLOC) adoption of a goal of zero waste, but expressed concerns about the proposed system to achieve that goal. In particular, CRRA and GRRN were concerned that

  • the planned system has visitors mixing recyclables with trash in a "one-bin" collection system in the public areas;
  • the Zero Waste goal will only have value if a more comprehensive plan for reducing waste and reusing, recycling and composting materials collected is implemented; and
  • SLOC must significantly modify its purchasing, service and education plans for the Olympics if it is to describe this as a Zero Waste system.

CRRA and GRRN called on SLOC to establish a Zero Waste Advisory Committee to obtain the expertise needed to expand its plans, and to make public on a timely basis all the tonnages of waste generated, diverted and landfilled from the Olympics.

SLOC responded to calls for improvements by CRRA, GRRN and others and convened a meeting of recycling experts in a Recycling Forum on August 16, 2001. The Forum addressed many of CRRA and GRRN's concerns, and made many recommendations for changes in SLOC's plans. After that meeting, in August 2001, GRRN said that it was unlikely that SLOC could come close to achieving Zero waste without adopting the recommendations of the Recycling Forum.

It's now clear that SLOC has adopted the Recycling Forum's recommendations to implement their Zero Waste goals. Most importantly, they moved from a one-bin to a two-bin system in the public areas, and they have designed waste out of the system in certain areas. SLOC also mandates that vendors limit the amount of waste they produce while servicing the games.

There will be very tight security at the Olympics venues - no food or beverages will be allowed on-site from outside. Participants will go through magnetic screens (like at airports) and searches of bags. No food and beverages will be allowed in from the public, and no glass of any kind. As a result, this is a unique situation where SLOC has used waste stream engineering to ensure that beverage containers and plates used in public areas will be 100% recyclable or compostable.

Paper cold drink cups being used are coated with a new
100% biodegradable plastic coating made from renewable corn starch (Matter B). SLOC is also piloting new clear biodegradable "plastic" cups made from plant starch using Cargill Dow PLA technology. Plates to be used in public areas will be made of compostable paper. Plastic bags used for collecting materials will be biodegradable bags from Plastic Solutions.

The only closed beverage containers to be sold on the Olympics venues will be plastic bottles that are part of a closed loop recycling system. These bottles will be the first ones at an Olympics event in North America to use plastic Coca Cola bottles made with some recycled content (10%). All non-alcoholic plastic beverage bottles collected from the Olympics venues will be recycled back into new bottles. The clear, green and blue bottles from the Olympics will be processed by Merlin in Alberta, Canada and Phoenix Technologies in Bowling Green, Ohio, into food grade plastic materials.

The 2-sort system will have a "bottles & cans" bin next to all the "mixed recyclables" bins in the public areas. All the bins are clearly labeled. The "bottles & cans" bins also have distinctive dome lids, with a hole on an angle clearly designed only for plastic bottles and cans. SLOC is also prepared to add separate bins for paper anywhere SLOC sees paper being generated in public areas.

In "back of house" areas, SLOC will be source separating many materials where they are produced in large quantities, including

  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Mixed paper (e.g., from the Main Media Center and offices)
  • Bottles and cans- Shrink wrap from pallets
  • Food discards from the Athlete's Village.

SLOC has contracted with a recycler and composter (GVR- Green Valley Recycle & Compost, LLC) that has built a recycling and composting system that is contractually committed to recovering 85% of the waste it receives. GVR has arranged for 2 composting sites one in Davis County next to Wasatch Landfill and one near the Salt Lake City airport, close to GVR's materials recovery facility on the grounds of Weyerhaeuser. GVR will use a variety of composting technologies, including package commercial systems (e.g., Naturetech and Earth Tubs), and an aerated static pile.

GVR will also be paid incentives for tonnages recovered greater than 85%. These requirements and incentives hopefully will result in greater than 90% overall waste diversion, which is the current GRRN standard to be considered a Zero Waste business. The composting system also is planned to remain after the Olympics, as an environmental legacy from SLOC to the host community. The SLOC Recycling Forum encouraged communities in the area to collect commercial food discards from restaurants, hotels, and venues for special events after the Olympic Games for composting in this system.

Recycled content building materials were used in the construction of the 3 buildings that needed to be built for the Olympics. C&D materials that are expected are cardboard, wood, cabling and carpet. SLOC has arranged for the recycling of all those materials, including requiring carpet contractors to takeback their carpets at the end of the events. SLOC will sell equipment and furniture at the dissolution of SLOC at the end of March 2002.

SLOC has done extensive training of its staff on how to use the Zero Waste system. SLOC will also place flyers in operations areas to remind the staff and volunteers what goes where. Some specific volunteers assigned to the Zero Waste staff will help educate the public during events.

Coca-Cola contributed an additional $300,000 to SLOC in order to make sure all these things could be done right. Coca Cola also expects to purchase more than 100,000 pounds of recycled plastic from beverage containers to make the closed loop recycling system work.

Coca-Cola is also introducing a new PET recycling bin in the shape of a bottle that will be used in Coca Cola Olympic venue concessions. Coca Cola will also backhaul the shrinkwrap from product deliveries to their warehouse where an existing recycling program is in place (to avoid contaminating the compost stream). Also, Coca Cola has established beverage container recycling programs at their hospitality hotels. A variety of recycled content products will be used at the Olympics. Coca Cola staff vests will be made of recycled PET. T-Shirts and Golf shorts will be made of PET manufactured by a minority-owned business. Along the Torch Relay routes preceding the Olympics, Coca Cola sponsored Green Teams (recruited of local recyclers) to collect bottles and cans at Relay events for recycling. Materials were given to local recycling programs around the country as part of these events.

GRRN would like to salute the leadership of the Olympics in adopting the goal of Zero Waste, and applaud the improvements in their discard system that have been made since last summer. A truly Zero Waste Olympics will set a new standard for special events all over the world. GRRN also commends Coca Cola for its assistance to SLOC to ensure that these improvements were made.

If you are interested in working with REAL LIVE Olympic Recyclables, contact John Madole at 612-281-5179. Green Valley is looking for volunteers before (starting now), during, and after the Games (to the end of March, after the Paralympics) to work in the Material Recovery Facility. It's a once in a life time opportunity!

Information on other SLOC environmental goals (e.g., zero emissions, urban forestry advocacy and zero tolerance for compliance errors) are posted at Daily recovery rates will also be posted at and at information kiosks at all venues. For more information contact Diane Gleason, SLOC at 801-212-2160 or Laynee Jones at 801-212-2289.

In addition, a story on this topic ran in Waste News of January 21, 2002

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


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