Glasgow 2014 delivers winning performance in sustainability and waste management

Hundreds of thousands of people who played a part in making Glasgow 2014 the best-ever Commonwealth Games and the biggest sporting event in Scotland’s history also played a key role in setting new and world-class benchmarks in sustainability.

4 Nov 14

Working in collaboration with resource efficiency experts Zero Waste Scotland, and having developed and implemented a Procurement Sustainability Policy, Glasgow 2014 set out to deliver a Commonwealth Games with a ‘Reduce, Reuse and Recycle’ focus and one which met ground-breaking event sustainability management targets.

In doing so Glasgow 2014 set a new benchmark for event sustainability management both for the Commonwealth Games and for events in Scotland, being awarded the coveted ISO 20121 – the gold international standard in sustainable event management.

The core objectives of Glasgow 2014’s Cleaning and Waste programme were to successfully deliver:

  • The planning, control and delivery of cleaning and waste services to all customer groups at villages and Venues
  • The delivery of a Cleaning and Waste service which complemented Glasgow 2014’s sustainability objectives
  • To maintain a clean and safe environment

Final reports demonstrate a number of key achievements which included:

  • Diverting 86% of waste from landfill during Games time, beating an 80% target
  • Recycling 49% of ALL waste during Games time
  • Pioneering the use of fully compostable plates, cups and recyclable bottles for food and drinks packaging Supporting the ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ principles which encouraged caterers and suppliers to consider packaging of raw materials, chemicals, delivery methods and sourcing of products 
  • Composting 60 tonnes of food waste – including peelings and trimmings – thanks to separation of food waste at venues: a first for a major event in Scotland 
  • Ensuring all waste was removed efficiently and effectively with minimal impact to client groups or communities
  • Up to 12 different waste streams – from plastic bottles to batteries - separated at the point of collection
  • Clear recycling signage using the Recycle for Scotland branding, and supported by volunteers to help people use the correct bins

Commenting on Glasgow 2014’s achievements in recycling and waste management, Glasgow 2014 Chief Executive David Grevemberg said:

“Glasgow 2014 has to thank our athletes, Games Partners and Games Family, spectators, our volunteers and absolutely everyone who played a part in helping us achieve such a great performance in delivering a sustainable Commonwealth Games.

“In doing so, we have met targets and also set a new gold standard in delivering major events in Scotland in a sustainable way. Sustainability was at the core of all our decisions and not an added extra or bolted on strategy and it was our aim  to contribute to making positive and lasting changes in the way we use natural and human resources to improve quality of life for all; now and in the future”

Environment Secretary, Richard Lochhead said:

“The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games was the biggest sporting and cultural event ever staged in Scotland, and I saw first-hand the sheer scale of the efforts to make it as sustainable as possible.

“I was particularly impressed by the Recycling Ambassadors who volunteered to help people sort their waste, and I am sure innovative measures such as these made a real and positive contribution to what was achieved. I now look forward to seeing how we can build on this valuable experience to help make other major events in Scotland as green as possible.”

Iain Gulland, Chief Executive of Zero Waste Scotland, said:

“Events of the scale of the Commonwealth Games can be very challenging operationally and logistically, but we were delighted to work with Glasgow 2014 and Games Partners to make sure sustainability was at the heart of decision making from the outset.   

“Like the many thousands of people who visited Games Venues, I was struck by the very visible effort that had been made to separate materials for recycling, including food waste and compostable packaging, which was genuinely innovative for an event of this scale.   These achievements are testimony to the efforts made both by the organisers, volunteers, athletes and spectators to make a difference.

“It’s also significant that we can use the experience of Glasgow 2014 to help other major events and we will be working with Events Scotland and others to develop a sustainable events guide as a key Legacy initiative.”

In recognition of its achievements in sustainability, Glasgow 2014 was also awarded ISO 20121, the international standard for Sustainable Event Management. 

Glasgow 2014 became the first Commonwealth Games to secure the global Event Management Standard which helps organisers run more sustainable events. The standard evolved from the British Standard BS 8901 for sustainability management systems for events and was used by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) to help make London 2012 the most sustainable Olympic Games to date.

ISO 20121 aims to help organisations improve sustainability throughout the entire event management cycle; and by achieving certification an organisation can demonstrate that they are considering their economic, environmental and social impacts with every decision they make. After a detailed audit undertaken by BSI, the business standards company, Glasgow 2014 became the only global sporting event this year to be certified to ISO 20121. This is testament to the fact that Glasgow 2014 considered sustainability from an early stage of planning and ensured it has been integrated into the Games management system.

Launched in response to global demand, ISO 20121 sets out a framework for reducing costs, carbon emissions & waste, managing the biodiversity of venues and achieving a diverse and inclusive workforce. The standard was developed by co-opted experts from 30 countries and provides a common international language for sustainability in the events industry.

Zero Waste Scotland will be working with Glasgow 2014 and Events Scotland to develop a Legacy initiative, sharing experience with others through a Sustainable Events Guide.

Notes For Editors

Note to Editors

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  2. The Commonwealth Games was an international, multi-sport event involving 71 teams of athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations. The event was first held in 1930 and takes place every four years. Glasgow 2014 was the XX Commonwealth Games and was held from 23 July to 3 August. It featured 17 sports in 11 days of competition with 261 medal events on show. The Games played host to 4500 aided by an army of up to 15,000 volunteers. Glasgow 2014 Ltd is the official name for the Organising Committee tasked with delivering the Games in partnership with the Scottish Government, Glasgow City Council and Commonwealth Games Scotlands
  3. Glasgow 2014’s official partner level sponsors are Longines, SSE, Virgin Media, BP, Emirates and Ford.
  4. Glasgow 2014, the Commonwealth Games Federation and UNICEF are working together in an exciting partnership that will transform the lives of children in Scotland and throughout the Commonwealth. Using the power of sport and culture this unique partnership aims to inspire, enable and empower the children of the Commonwealth to be the best they can be.
  5. The Scottish Commonwealth Games Youth Trust (SCGYT) has been operating since 1989, with the aim of helping young Scottish sportspeople to improve and make use of their abilities as athletes, sports coaches, sports administrators and referees, umpires and judges - by way of grants, bursaries, loans or otherwise.
  6. The Glasgow 2014 Procurement Sustainability Policy sought to ensure that labour, social, waste, transport and material sustainability considerations were embedded throughout the procurement process and can be found at:
  7. One of Glasgow 2014’s obligations was to stage a Games with responsible environmental and sustainability standards. It aimed to minimise its impact on the environment and seek opportunities that will enhance the environment. One way of doing this is to adopt a strategy of sourcing local food, where possible, from sustainable and traceable sources. Glasgow 2014 has produced this Food Charter  to demonstrate its commitment to taking proper account of the sustainability in the food provided at the Games. Glasgow 2014 also aimed to promote healthy living via the provision of a variety of authentic foods, including healthier options.

The Food Charter contributed to the objective of both Glasgow 2014 and the Scottish Government’s Legacy 2014 programme: to improve the health of Scotland’s population, with a particular focus on the prevention of obesity.


Glasgow 2014 developed a sustainable procurement policy for the purchase of goods, services and sponsorship. This policy highlighted the importance of sustainable, ethical and socially-aware resourcing; factors that were also recognised by Scotland’s achievement of Fair Trade Nation status in 2013.

Sustainable food can be defined as food that, through its production, processing, distribution consumption and waste management, provides a range of benefits and minimises harm. It requires consideration of where the main impacts in food supply may be, for example in primary production, processing, packaging or distribution. 

The charter signalled Glasgow 2014’s intention to promote four themes:

  • Sustainability and culture
  • Resource and provision
  • Diversity, consistency and health 
  • Standard practice

Glasgow 2014’s challenge was to deliver a catering programme that met the needs of many stakeholders while remaining on time and on budget; and within space, security and supplier constraints. It will strive for best value and encourage open and transparent procurement of catering services and food supplies from businesses in Scotland, the EU and beyond.

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