The goal of London's 2012 Olympics is to be the most sustainable Games ever. But the organizers are a bit conflicted. For example, the world's largest MacDonald's will be opening just next to the site. It will be the size of 3 football fields and is expected to serve 1.75M meals. That's 50,000 Big Macs and 180,000 portions of fries and 30,000 milkshakes over the 29 days of the Games.
But one doughty little group of activists, is pushing hard to make the Olympics plastic bag free. Since several of the Olympic venues are located in the Richmond and Kingston boroughs of London, the group, Greener Upon Thames has a special interest in the Olympics as an obvious target. They have started a petition which has been signed by Sting, Richard Branson, and Vivienne Westwood and many more:
"We, the undersigned, demand a plastic-bag-free Olympics in 2012 and call for a total ban on all outlets at the Olympics from issuing plastic bags."
Photo: B. Alter
Plastic bag usage in the UK is rising. There has been a 5% increase in plastic bag use in 2010 compared to the previous year. After a huge campaign in 2008, usage fell to 6.5bn by 2009-10. But by 2010 it was back up to 6.8bn.
There are some success stories. Ireland imposed a tax on plastic bags in 2002, and their usage has dropped dramatically. Likewise Wales is considering a tax and hopes that its 5p charge will reduce the number of bags given out by 90 per cent. Modbury is the famous little town that did it first, in 2007 and they are still at it.
The Mayor of London vowed to make London a plastic bag free zone but he has not been aggressive in his campaign. He has renewed his attacks recently, saying that the bags are an "unnecessary scourge on our environment" and called for them to be banned across London before the city hosts the Olympics next year. Unfortunately London would require special dispensation from Parliament to implement a bag tax and it is a little late for that if he wants to end bags by 2012.
A plastic bag free Olympics would be lasting legacy of the games and a send a high profile message to towns and cities across the country to do the same.