Green is first past the winning post Despite initial logistical hiccups and security concerns, the London Summer Olympics 2012 was in the end an unmitigated jolly good show – a showcase of not only athletic prowess, but also triumphs of the human spirit and the power of friendship. Over and above that, the organisers ensured the event was the most sustainable too, says PC Teh in this article.
Many shades of green The hundreds of thousands of athletes, officials and spectators have left for home and, one suspects, more than a few Londoners would have breathed a sigh of relief as humdrum routine reclaimed the city. Still the excitement, drama and exhilaration of the summer of 2012, and the air of festivity imparted by banners and national flags of myriad hues hung across the British capital, are bound to linger in the minds of the people. But colourful and gay as the event was, the organisers had intended that it was the Games’s rich shade of green that should make the biggest and most lasting impression on the world. In fact, this was a commitment shaped well before the Olympics came to town – nine years before, to be precise – when the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) submitted the city’s bid with a promise to host the “greenest Games ever”, based on the strategy of “Towards a One Planet Olympics”. As such, from the grandest and most expensive aspects related to the organisation of London 2012 Olympics down to the smallest details, in respect of people transport, management of supplies, and proper disposal of waste, among other demands, this promise was by and large fulfilled. According to David Stubbs, Head of Sustainability for LOCOG, sustainability was literally embedded into the fabric of the construction and staging of the Games, starting with the use of low-carbon concrete in building the venues, as well as sustainable sourcing of timber. This was also the first fully publictransport Games, Stubbs said, and it featured the “Active Travel Programme”, which promoted cycling and walking to the Games. PVCs and PS take centre stage in infrastructure French company Solvay Vinyls’s fully recyclable PVC-coated technical textiles – based on its VinyLoop recycling technology for PVC composites – were used at venues such as the Olympic stadium, the water polo arena and the Royal Artillery barrack. Romain Ferrari, CEO of the Serge Ferrari Group, a global supplier of architectural tarpaulins and a VinyLoop partner, was reported as saying: “This unique process jointly developed with Solvay provides a second life to vinyl textiles and makes them 100% recyclable.” Magma Architecture designed three mobile buildings for the shooting competitions in a crisp, white double-curved membrane façade studded with vibrantly coloured openings. As well as animating the façade, these dots operate as tensioning nodes. The 18,000 sq m phthalate-free PVC membrane functions best in this stretched format as it prevents the façade from flapping in the wind
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2012
Dow’s polyester and PE wrap is made up of 336 individual panels - each 25 m high and 2.5 m wide. The wrap is up to 35% lighter in weight when compared to conventional materials, according to the company
Some of these special textiles will be re-employed in soccer stadiums currently under construction in Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Others will be converted into gym mats for schools and the remainder will be recycled. Meanwhile, the Basketball Arena for the Games was one of the biggest temporary venues ever erected for any Olympics to date. Designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects, it provided 12,000 seats for the basketball heats and handball finals, as well as 10,000 seats for the wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby competitions. The London Olympics’ overall focus on sustainability was a key driver in the building’s design. According to news reports, it was the third largest venue in London’s Olympic Park. Standing 30 m high, it was composed of a steel portal frame and wrapped in 20,000 sq m of lightweight, phthalatefree, recyclable PVC. The translucent cladding was custom-designed to stretch across minimal steel framing modules. The arena was constructed of individual components that could be dismantled and subdivided for reuse, with over two-thirds of the materials and components used on the project identified for reuse or for recycling. Thousands of insulation
boards made from Styrofoam-A closed-cell extruded polystyrene foam at Dow Building Solution’s King’s Lynn manufacturing facility were installed on several structures within the Olympic Park. The insulation was designed to help make the buildings more energy-efficient and the roofs more durable – particularly important as the buildings are transformed from Olympic to permanent “legacy” use. Structures insulated with Styrofoam materials included the Olympic Stadium, the International Media Centre, the Copper Box indoor arena and more than half of the roofs on the Olympic and Paralympic Village, all supplied by official partner Dow Chemical.
LOCOG targeted 70% of the waste produced by the events to be recycled, re-used or composted, since 40% of waste at the Games came from food or contaminated packaging. So compostable and recycled packaging, used in conjunction with a closed loop composting/ recycling process, has been a cornerstone in the greenest Games ever, according to LOCOG. PET bottles heyday for drinks Meanwhile, in line with LOCOG’s policy that all beverage packaging must be sold in recyclable PET plastic bottles, Coca-Cola’s plastic bottles discarded at the Olympic sites were destined to be recycled into 80 million new drinks bottles at its new £15m factory in Lincolnshire. Calling it a first for the UK recycling and beverage industries, CocaCola and plastic recycler Eco Plastics established a recycling facility dedicated to processing both PET plastic bottles and other polymers simultaneously.
The Dutch Women’s 8 won a bronze medal in a rowing boat that was built by German boat builder Empacher, using Dutch chemical firm DSM’s resins and carbon fibre to increase the stiffness of the hull by 25%
Sustainable packaging And how about this for green: sustainable packaging made from plants. Fast food chain McDonald’s, which ran the largest food outlet at the games, had opted to use Novamont’s Mater-Bi bioplastics for its cups, cutlery, straws, lids and containers. Italy-based Novamont said its Mater-Bi composts with anaerobic digestion, allowing the 3,300 tonnes of food and food-related packaging waste that was generated to be handled more easily than conventional materials. The London event aimed to be the first ever zero waste Games, explaining the decision to use food packaging made from plant starch and cellulose.
Sporting goods giant Nike’s sportswear was designed to help Olympians go faster. The sportswear is manufactured from 82% recycled polyester fabric, made from recycled plastic bottles, and is said to be around 40% lighter than sportswear worn at the 2008 Beijing Games
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2012
Sports The joint venture, known as Continuum Recycling, is a EUR18.7 million recycling facility predicted to increase the amount of bottle-grade rPET currently produced in the UK to more than 75,000 tonnes/year. Coca-Cola also used its PlantBottle technology, which is a mixture containing up to 22.5% plastic made from plant-based materials and up to 25% recycled plastic, for the bottles. In a similar vein, Closed Loop Recycling, a plasticbottle recycling plant that helped London win its Olympic Games bid, doubled its capacity under a £12m expansion plan. The company has recycled more than 100,000 tonnes of plastic bottles at its recycling facility in Dagenham since its opening in 2008, five miles away from the Olympic Park in Stratford. Meanwhile, beer bottler Heineken that was granted exclusivity over beer and cider brands at the Games launched the first fully recyclable PET bottle. PET supplier Constar International UK designed a limited edition 330 ml PET bottle for lager, just for the Games. The bottles were also produced with Constar’s Osbar barrier technology that makes the PET packaging lighter, with improved gas barrier compared to standard PET. Since the Heineken’s recyclable beer bottle designed just for the Games
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2012
Heineken bottles were green in colour, the recycled material could not be re-used to make bottles but it could be used for applications that allow for coloured recycled polyester material. Athletic performance from plastics and rubber When it comes to athletic performance, German speciality chemicals firm Lanxess is never far behind, with its materials found in balls, mats, running tracks, gym floors, shoes and much more. In today’s hightech shoes, for example, a technology similar to that of modern, fuel-saving tyres is used. “Silica technology that gives the tyres good grip and makes them economical also ensures that the soles of the running shoes have good grip on a wet track,” says Martin Mezger, a rubber expert at Lanxess. Known as Krynac, the material is particularly durable, flexible – and popular.
Lanxess’s Krynac is used in shoe soles
Long-distance runners, in particular, also need special damping properties. To serve as a cushion between the foot and the ground, the midsoles are made of the high-performance rubber. Other than this, the firm’s Levapren ethylene vinyl acetate rubber has a springy, stabilising effect to provide comfort in the footwear of athletes, according to Mezger. The company also noted that of the 60 or so Olympic
and Paralympic disciplines, around one-third used a ball of some kind: from beach volleyball to tennis, from wheelchair rugby to water polo, and even rhythmic gymnastics. And for good measure, spectators in the stadiums frequently find themselves sitting on the firm’s Durethan polyamide that is used in the production of stadium seats. Such a seat has to be able to withstand a weight of up to 600 kg, while being immune to the effects of hail, ice, rain, snow and long periods of sunshine. “Organisers of the Games worked hard not only to achieve the zero wasteto-landfill target but also to embed sustainability, a commendable aim and one that Lanxess is firmly in favour of,” said Martin Mezger, a rubber expert at Lanxess
The shells, which are produced in one piece by injection moulding, have no dangerous edges or seams, says Lanxess. And through combination with other products, such as pigments like Macrolex, Levagard and Disflamoll, they are not only colourful and attractive, but also have outstanding flame retardance. “Other Lanxess products at the Games included Bayplast inorganic pigments and ethylene propylene rubber (EPDM), which were used in the production of artificial turf surfaces used in the professional field hockey,” said Mezger, adding that the pigments ensure the surface stays green through rain and shine.