[As seen in WasteNews, Jan. 18, 2002]
Environmentalists hail new Olympics recycling plan
By Jim Johnson and Joe Truini

SALT LAKE CITY -- Olympic organizers have satisfied environmentalists who had voiced concerns about how thousands of tons of waste will be handled at the upcoming Winter Games.

Spectator areas will feature a two-bin collection system, one for bottles and cans and another for all other types of waste, said Laynee Jones, manager of waste and recycling for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.

The change to two bins and a willingness to include various stakeholders in the decision-making process helped smooth worries that had been raised.

"We expressed concern back in August that we didn´t think the committee would be able to meet the zero-waste goal that they established unless they at a minimum adopted the recommendations of the forum that was convened then," said Gary Liss of the GrassRoots Recycling Network, an environmental group based in Athens, Ga.

"Looks like they have moved forward with the recommendations of the forum."
Olympic organizers called together several organizations interested in the Olympic waste stream last summer to gather input.

Out of that forum came a strong call to change from a single-bin system for all waste to a two-bin system to better facilitate recycling.

"After the forum, I think most people went away very satisfied," Jones said.
The Olympic committee, open to the idea of adding a second bin, then sharpened its pencil and went to work to find a way to accommodate the idea, Jones said.

"We didn´t have enough in the budget for double bins," Jones said about initial projections. But after bids were received, modifications were made to simplify the container design and discussions were held with the supplier to help lower the unit cost.

"When we got the bids, we just did some real tough negotiations," she said.
Toter Inc. of Statesville, N.C., is supplying about 8,000 bins for the Games, including between 3,000 and 4,000 that will be used in areas open to spectators, Jones said. Participants and employees will use the remaining bins in areas off limits to the public.

During events, the organizing committee will have a cleaning contractor check and empty containers at 45-minute intervals, Jones said. "That´s just on competition event days," she said.

Waste will be generated at a slower rate when events are not taking place at a particular venue.

GRRN´s Liss also is pleased at the overall approach the Olympics is taking to handle the waste stream.

"They are doing the two-sort," he said. "They are designing out waste by having a controlled environment that´s very secure in the Olympics and not allowing any materials in from the outside."

In addition, the materials that will be sold to the public will all be recyclable or compostable for the two streams, Liss said.

"I´d say we´re pleased that the progress that they were making has continued," he said. "They will be getting the message of zero waste out to millions of people."
Along with the organizing committee´s efforts, a high-profile sponsor is undertaking its own recycling effort.

Coca-Cola Co., of Atlanta, has set a lofty goal of recycling every single polyethylene terephthalate bottle recovered at the Games, making this the first Olympics competition for which all the bottles taken back will be made into new bottles.
Coke expects to recover some 100,000 pounds of plastic bottles throughout the Games and has created its own PET recycling bins in the shape of a giant Coke bottle to serve as a visual aid. "We´re really looking for ways to capture containers in the marketplace," said Scott Vitters, environmental project manager for Coca-Cola North America.

The Coke collection containers will be in the company´s concession areas, Jones said.

Most of the new bottles at the Winter Games, 75 percent, will have recycled content plastic. That´s another Olympic first.

Some 2,500 tons of trash and recyclables will be generated at the Salt Lake Games, and contractor Green Valley Recycle and Compost is required by contract to recycle at least 85 percent of the material.

There are cash incentives if the company exceeds that rate.

"After it´s thrown away, garbage is collected and transferred to the material recovery facility," said Diane Conrad Gleason, director of environmental programs for the organizing committee. "There, it´s sorted by type into plastics, aluminum, other metals, compostables and nonrecoverable items."

Compost will be used with soil to restore areas such as park and ride lots used during the Games.

Waste collection will begin several days before the Games open Feb. 8, Jones said. "Most of the venues will be creating waste at that time," she said. "It will not be the homogenized-type waste that will be seen when the Games start. But we´re going to be proactive."

The earlier start also will allow organizers to work out kinks in the waste recovery system, Jones said.

GRRN, once a harsh critic of Coke´s recycling efforts, is praising the company´s work at the Olympics. "We´re absolutely thrilled," Liss said.

The Games, which run through Feb. 24, expect to attract 75,000 visitors per day, 10,000 media representatives, and 3,500 athletes and officials.

Contact Waste News reporter Joe Truini at (330) 865-6166 or jtruini@crain.com; or reporter Jim Johnson at (330) 865-6171 or jpjohnson@crain.com

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