Sustainable packaging made from plants is set to play a major role at the London Olympics, but it could all be for nothing, says NNFCC.
"Compostable packaging is ideal for events like the Olympics, because packaging contaminated with food can be composted together, helping to cut waste and generate valuable revenue," says Dr John Williams, head of materials at NNFCC.
London 2012 is dedicated to becoming the first ever zero-waste Olympic Games and bioeconomy consultants NNFCC has been advising the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) on the best solutions to achieve this goal.
This resulted in the decision to use food packaging made from plant starch and cellulose at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
As well as being made from renewable resources, these materials help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and minimise packaging’s impact on the environment.
Materials getting a ‘green’ makeover will include fast food wrappers, sandwich boxes and drink cartons. These materials will be compliant with EN 13432, the agreed European Standard for compostability, and as a result will be suitable for treatment by an in-vessel composter or potentially an anaerobic digester. This will allow them to be converted into a low-carbon compost and, if used in an anaerobic digester, renewable energy as well.
All compostable materials will be labelled with an orange recycling symbol and can be put in a corresponding orange bin along with any food waste.
Recyclable materials will have a green symbol and green bins, and non-recyclables can be put in black bins. All black bin waste will be taken away and used to create electricity. This will help prevent any waste being sent to landfill.
While this is a great achievement in itself, the key will now be to maintain the momentum and build on the success of London 2012, while recognising where things can be improved for future events.
"By sharing our experiences from London 2012 and developing guidelines which can be applied to other events in the future, we will create a lasting environmental legacy for the fast food and catering trade long after the Games have finished," says Williams.
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