Are the London Olympics Going for Recycling Gold?

The 2012 Summer Games are hoping to make a positive environmental impact.

smart recycling bin
One of London's smart recycling bins—and it's bomb proof, too. (Stringer UK /Reuters)
A former Gourmet staffer, Lawrence enjoys writing about design, food, travel, and lots of other stuff.

“We’re going for the gold,” was not a cry that was heard during the games at the Ancient Olympics because there were no gold, silver, or bronze medals. Winners were crowned with an olive wreath, also known as a kotinos.

At the time of the Athens games in 2004, Klaus Toepfer, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), noted that, “The olive wreath remains as an Olympic symbol to this day, a reminder of the precious link between humankind and the natural environment that we must learn to better preserve and cherish.”

London organizers appear to be taking this spirit to heart for the games, which begin on July 27. In February, it was announced that the city would install 25 high-tech smart bins for recycling. Aside from attempting to save a bit of our planet, these electronic wonders will have Wi-Fi connectivity and their screens will constantly change to display information ranging from weather forecasts to stock prices.

And just this month, Coca-Cola Enterprises—the longest continuous corporate partner of the Olympic Games—and ECO Plastics announced the opening of their joint venture, Continuum Recycling. This plastics recycling factory in Lincolnshire, a county in the east of England, “could return up to 20 million bottles to the shelves inside the six weeks of the Games,” according to the Lincolnshire Echo, a local newspaper.

It’s hard to know how much of an environmental impact this has overall, but at the very least eco-consciousness seems to have become an expected part of the Olympic Games. Back in 2000, some dubbed Sydney “The Green Games” in acknowledgment of the organizers’ recycling efforts.

Vancouver got in the act for the 2010 Winter Games, when they constructed the Richmond Olympic Oval sports facility using one million feet of timber from trees killed by the pine beetle, a charming little creature that’s been ravaging the forests in British Columbia. According to the UNEP, even Beijing made progress in reducing the city’s air pollution during 2008.

So we seem to be on the right track, but let’s not stop reaching for that gold.

Do you think the London organizers are doing enough when it comes to recycling?

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