The organizers of the Olympic Games have agreed that they will prioritize Sustainability at the Tokyo Games in a bid to demonstrate how countries like Japan (the main carbon emitter) can work for a greener future. Their initiatives include supplying recyclable cardboard beds in the Olympic Village, using electricity from renewable sources, and reducing waste in competitions. But like all major global events, Tokyo 2020 will leave an inevitable mark on the planet. Here are some key points to know about environmental impact:
2.73 million tons of CO2
The latest official calculation of the carbon footprint of the Tokyo Games – more than what some countries like Montenegro emit in a year.
It contains 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 generated by the construction or refurbishment of sites and other infrastructure.
But it does not take into account that foreign audiences are prohibited from limiting the risks of coronavirus infection.
When air travel and accommodation emissions are ruled out, organizers say the total footprint should be reduced by about 340,000 tons of CO2.
They will publish the final assessment after the games are over.
The number is already lower than the Rio and London Olympics, and Paris has set a larger target of 1.5 million tonnes as the organizer of the 2024 Games.
Tokyo 2020 also says it intends to “compensate” for its footprint by buying carbon credits, which fund local projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to about 4.38 million tonnes of CO2.
But programs like this are debatable. Activists accuse large businesses of paying for a quick fix rather than reviewing their operations, and some compensation projects have failed.
Game organizers plan to use 100% renewable electricity for Olympic purposes during the event.
But only 30 to 35 percent of that power will come directly from green sources, especially solar energy and biofuel, a Tokyo 2020 spokesman told AFP.
“For places where they can’t get renewable electricity through energy companies, we will turn non-renewable electricity into renewable electricity using green energy certificates,” organizers say.
These credits ensure that the same amount of clean energy is injected into the country’s electricity grid, or that the same amount is saved through the renovation of homes in Tokyo so that they can be more energy efficient.
Reuse and recycling
Tokyo 2020 says it “continues to work to reuse or recycle 99% of the goods acquired for the Games,” selling as many items as possible and selling them when they bought new ones.
The scope of this goal is limited, however, especially for Olympic Village furniture, as well as for Office and Computer Equipment operations for Games.
Some accessories are specially designed for recycling, such as the beds in the Olympic Village, which are made of reinforced cardboard. The medals are made from recycled consumer electronics and the podium from old plastic.
With spectators banned from almost every event in the games (the first to be held almost entirely behind closed doors), the mountain of consumer waste left by large crowds may be of less concern.
The organizers aim to reuse or recycle 65% of the waste generated during the event.
There will be separate containers in the halls and in the Olympic Village to store plastic bottles, cans, paper and food waste, all of which will then be separated at the proper stage.
Non-recyclable waste will be converted into energy by burning, organizers say, as far as possible paper has been chosen over single-use plastic, such as in dining rooms.
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