Post-Sochi: Environmentalists Call on Olympic Committee to Consider Future Game’s Climate Impacts
A letter was sent to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Friday from Global Greengrants Fund asking it to change course on how it chooses future Olympic sites and to call on Russian authorities to release imprisoned environmentalists. The request comes as a final report cataloguing the extensive environmental destruction has been released, and as jailed Russian environmental activist, Yevgeny Vitishko, continues his hunger strike and is transferred to a penal colony for a three-year sentence.
“The environmental destruction caused by the Sochi Games, and the arrest and imprisonment of environmentalists who are simply trying to get the word out, is unconscionable,” said Terry Odendahl, executive director and CEO of Global Greengrants Fund. “The Olympic Charter says it is committed to ‘building a peaceful and better world by educating youth,’ and the Sochi Olympics have violated that charter.”
The Russian environmental organization, Environmental Watch on North Caucasus, a grantee partner of Global Greengrants, compiled an 85-page report that highlights destruction of forests, rivers and wildlife habitat caused by building the Sochi Games in the middle of the once-pristine Sochi National Park. According to Environmental Watch, the construction effort was possible because officials violated or gutted Russian environmental laws, and when Environmental Watch raised these concerns, the organization’s staff was detained, harassed, exiled or jailed. Selections of the report translated into English are available here.
In addition to highlighting the damage to Sochi National Park and the human rights abuses, the Global Greengrants letter also requests that the IOC consider the climate change impacts of building new Olympic venues every two years.
“In this era of climate change, building these small new Olympic cities every two years, which then forces local activists to defend the environment with their lives, is climate denial compounded by an egregious violation of environmental justice and human rights,” continued Odendahl.
The environmental and human rights violations of the Sochi games have been reported in the international press, including Time, Outside Magazine, Washington Post and New York Times, shedding a shameful light on these Olympics and the International Olympic Committee’s venue selection for the 2014 Games.
Global Greengrants called on the IOC to intervene and help free the Russian environmental activists, acknowledge the environmental destruction by urging the Russian government to address it and to create truly sustainable Olympics in the future.
“Our partners in Sochi are just like you and me. They are ordinary citizens and scientists, concerned about the environment and the well-being of our planet. But they’re being treated like criminals,” Odendahl said. “Freezing bank accounts, detaining, harassing, exiling and jailing environmental activists—that’s the environmental legacy of the Sochi Olympics? The IOC needs to make sure this never happens again.”
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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