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The Sochi Olympics won’t medal in recycling

| November 7, 2013

Well, that was short-lived. When bidding to host the 2014 Olympic games in Sochi, Russian Officials pledged to create a “Zero Waste” event — but subsequent investigations have proved that the pledge has very much been broken.

A recent article by Associated Press writer Nataliya Vasilyeva published on ABC News elaborates on the reversal. The AP conducted an investigation in late October, and found that “Russia’s state-owned rail monopoly is dumping tons of construction waste into what authorities call an illegal landfill, raising concerns of possible contamination in the water that directly supplies Sochi.”

sochi olympics

The Sochi games will likely be harsh on the environment. From Stefan Krasowski.

That marks a dramatic shift from what had been promised. Initially, Russian officials promised that the Sochi Olympics would be “the cleanest games ever” and said they would “refrain from dumping construction waste and rely on usable materials.”

Reportedly, the Environmental Protection Agency has already investigated the illegal landfill and administered a $3,000 fine for the dumping. For an event that will reportedly cost $51 billion — the most expensive Olympic games ever — that fine is barely a drop in the bucket. It certainly doesn’t seem to have discouraged the illegal dumping.

The landfill doesn’t have a license, and they couldn’t get a license if they wanted to, “because the village lies in an area where dumping construction waste and soil is forbidden under the Russian Water Code.”

If that sounds like a problem, that’s because it is a problem. Up to half of Sochi’s water supply is potentially at risk because of the way the landfill drains.

Experts say that Sochi will be paying the price for this choice long after the closing ceremonies.

“Water from here will be contaminating Sochi’s fresh water springs for the next 10 to 15 years,” Vladimir Kimaev, a member of the Environmental Watch on North Caucasus, said in the Associated Press article.

That means that the contamination will still be in effect through the 2020 Tokyo games and beyond.

sochi olympics

Sochi’s water supply may be particularly damaged by the Olympics. From Ralph Hockens.

Sochi’s residents aren’t exactly taking this issue lying down. Vasilyeva reports that local residents have repeatedly complained to authorities about the landfill, and one village chief says officials keep telling them that the landfill is illegal and has been closed down — even though it’s clearly still there.

So what are the Sochi officials telling the press? “Dmitry Kozak, the deputy prime minister in charge of the preparations for the games, has persistently dismissed claims that Sochi is failing on green commitments.” He admits ‘certain violations,’ but refutes reports of illegal landfills.

Vasilyeva says that the illegal landfill isn’t the only thing raising eyebrows: Sochi has extremely limited recycling facilities. Perhaps that’s why, “in January, Sochi officials issued an official strategy on waste treatment that cast aside plans for recycling waste and ruled that burning unsorted trash is the most ‘forward-looking’ solution.”

Perhaps those of us watching the Olympics in Sochi can make an extra effort to step up our own recycling efforts at home in order to counteract the lack of green activity at the games.

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Category: Regulations

About the Author ()

Ellen Hunter Gans has been writing for RecycleReminders since the blog’s inception. She is passionate about words, new media and, of course, recycling.

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