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13 Jun 2011 10:06:56

Compostable bioplastics set for big win at London Olympics

London Olympics Stadium
Food packaging made from compostable materials – like starch and cellulose-based bioplastics – will feature widely at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Materials getting a 'green' makeover will include fast food wrappers, sandwich boxes and drink cartons. After they've been used many of these materials will be suitable for anaerobic digestion, allowing them to be made into renewable energy.

"The London Olympics has given us a unique opportunity to showcase the benefits of using compostable packaging, particularly for food, and recovering its stored energy at end-of-life using anaerobic digestion," says Dr John Williams, head of materials for energy and industry at the NNFCC.

The NNFCC and British Printing Industries Federation have been working with the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games to ensure compostable food packaging is part of London 2012's sustainability promise.

When London won the Olympics they pledged to set "new standards of sustainability" and organisers committed to sending zero waste direct to landfill during the games, with a minimum of 70 per cent to be reused, recycled or composted.

This was no small commitment. An estimated 6.5 million people will attend the London Olympics and in the space of just 17 days will generate over 3,300 tonnes of food packaging waste.

What is done with this large amount of waste will have far reaching consequences on the games' carbon footprint and could also affect the long-term sustainability of the packaging industry.

The response from industry has been extremely positive, and plastics manufacturers hope it will demonstrate a workable model that can be rolled out nationally.

"Using renewable materials at the Olympics is a great way to demonstrate to the public how seriously the packaging industry is taking sustainability," says Andy Sweetman, chairman of the European Bioplastics Association.

"Moving the packaging industry towards a low carbon economy is challenging but bioplastic manufacturers are at the forefront of innovation."

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