Collaring emissions at the Met

7th October 2013


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the environmentalist discovers how the Metropolitan Police tackled sustainability issues during London 2012

Policing the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games presented the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) with an operational – and environmental – challenge on a scale that it had never before experienced.

During the games more than 10,500 police officers were deployed on peak days; 644,000 litres of fuel were consumed by the MPS fleet; 440 tonnes of CO2were produced from temporary MPS buildings; 2,265 litres of water were used; and 262 tonnes of waste were generated – though no waste was sent to landfill.

Conscious of the aim for London 2012 to be “the most sustainable games ever”, the MPS developed a sustainability programme for its policing operations. That programme continues to be used today and aims to improve the environmental impacts from the policing of major events in future.

On a grand scale

With the MPS being the largest employer in London, comprising 50,000 people across 32 boroughs, successfully managing the sustainability impacts of policing the games was no mean feat. The service’s environment team, led by head of carbon management Neil Grange, acted as a coordinating hub to ensure that impacts were considered and mitigated wherever possible. “The sheer scale of the event was a challenge, exacerbated by the fact that, at the early stages, there wasn’t much information about what precisely the project would entail,” says Grange.

“With a small team of environment professionals, it was a priority to engage people across the organisation, and ensure that all parties understood that sustainability requirements needed to be incorporated at every stage of planning and delivery of our policing operations.”

With this goal in mind, the team gave numerous presentations to senior managers, subcontractors, suppliers and working groups to gain the necessary buy-in to support the Met’s sustainability agenda.

The environment team also dealt with a host of challenges specific to developing a sustainable event management system for the games.

“Before the event there were environmental issues to consider around the site selection of our temporary policing centres, as well as in contracts and the procurement process,” recalls Sarah Foster, recycling officer.

“During the event, the main issues focused on ensuring that accurate monitoring was completed regularly and that police staff understood what was expected of them at the temporary sites – for example, in relation to waste segregation and the use of equipment and appliances.”

The London 2012 organising committee (Locog) had a vision of the Olympic and Paralympic games that would leave a sustainable legacy for London and the UK, and early on defined five key areas of focus: climate change, waste, biodiversity, inclusion and healthy living. The Met approached these five core elements through the filter of its corporate social responsibility strategy and by adopting the framework set out in BS 8901, the British sustainability standard created for the events industry to coincide with the games.

Grange says the Met already had a robust environment management system in place and the adoption of 8901 served more to highlight any sustainability gaps that could have arisen from the planning and delivery of a large-scale event. His team also used an environment implications matrix tool to assess the impacts of every project concerned with policing the games. The matrix, which the MPS continues to apply, was used to detail any impacts arising from event-related activities and the steps to be taken to mitigate, where possible, any negative effects. The areas assessed in the matrix relate to:

Between June 2010 and March 2011, the team assessed 86 business cases for projects related to the Met’s policing operations for the games in relation to their environment aspects and impacts. These business cases varied widely in terms of their scale and implications for sustainability, but projects with the greatest significance for the environment tended to focus on:

  • fuel consumption and CO2 emissions from transport;
  • energy use (electricity, gas and fuel oil) and associated CO2 from buildings and temporary facilities funded by the MPS;
  • water consumption;
  • waste generated by Met employees and managed directly by its contracted suppliers; and
  • impacts on local wildlife, biodiversity and communities.

Centre of operations

As part of its policing of the games, the MPS built three temporary muster, briefing and deployment centres (MBDCs) at Wanstead Flats (pictured), Blackheath Army Cadet Centre and Battersea Power Station. They provided briefing and feeding for up to 4,000 officers a day, and acted as a base to issue operational equipment.

The design, construction and operation of the centres all required the input of the environment. It worked closely with the MBDC project managers to ensure that sustainability issues were considered at all stages, from planning and procurement through to construction and operation during the games. The team was able to rely on the Met’s sustainable project design guide to ensure the most environmentally friendly options were selected. The centres were fitted with LED lighting, percussion taps in bathrooms and waterless urinals, for example.

Many of the sustainable solutions used were unique, owing to the temporary nature of the sites and their specific requirements. Light pollution, for example, was identified as a possible concern at the centres due to its potential impact on biodiversity and the local community. “With this in mind, we investigated options for sensitive lighting during the planning stage for the centres, including fencing that would not only provide perimeter security but would keep light pollution to a minimum,” says Grange. External car park lighting posts were erected and powered with large batteries charged via generators and onsite photovoltaic cells.

Emergency procedures were established during the design phase to ensure that any spillages from oil or other pollutants could be cleaned up quickly and efficiently. Spill kits were installed at all three MBDCs during the construction phase.

Consuming resources

Energy and water consumption, as well as waste generation, were measured at each MBDC. Wanstead was the largest of the three sites and used more than 94,000 litres of fuel during the games – generating the equivalent of 266 tonnes of CO2.

Transport contracts ensured that vehicle movements were kept to a minimum and suppliers were encouraged to sign up to the freight operator recognition scheme, created by Transport for London to improve the environmental performance of freight movements in the city. Deliveries to sites were carefully planned to minimise the number of journeys required.

Waste management, meanwhile, was tackled through specific strategies at each centre. “Our aim was to ensure that as much waste as possible was recycled or recovered to support Locog’s vision of a zero-waste games,” says Foster. As far back as 2009, the team started to work on waste reduction measures for the games and, in 2011, it produced venue and resource management guidance, which required suppliers to achieve a 50% recycling rate and a minimum recovery rate of 60% for all waste.

One issue was how to deal with the waste generated by the 200 dogs and 60 horses based at the MBDCs. A composite flooring was used for the 35 stables built for the mounted branch of the MPS to prevent any residue from horse waste entering the ground and contaminating watercourses. Horse waste was carefully segregated in sealed containers. It was eventually used as manure in the London Borough of Newham’s parks.

Catering for 4,000 police officers daily at the Wanstead MBDC represented its own waste management challenges. When the MBDCs were up and running, the environment team trained about 400 catering and cleaning staff on the efficient use of water and energy, as well as segregation methods for different waste streams. Posters with clear waste segregation instructions were placed close to the recycling bins. The catering teams were able to “close the loop” for one waste stream, with 18,000 litres of cooking oil collected and converted to biodiesel for use by catering suppliers.

More than 220,000 meals were served at the centres during the games. To reduce the impact of the associated waste, disposable bowls and plates were made from a compostable paper-based material certified to the EU packaging standard EN 13432 and police officers were issued with refillable water bottles to cut plastic waste. Compostable packaging and food waste were collected and sent to an anaerobic digestion facility in south-west London. In total, 259 tonnes of waste were generated at the three centres – 100% was recovered, 78% was recycled and no waste was sent to landfill.

Dealing with biodiversity

Protecting the biodiversity at the MBDC sites was also a priority for the environment team. Of the three centres, only the Wanstead MBDC posed difficulties as it was located on a site of importance for nature conservation and next to a site of special scientific interest. Specific planning requirements relating to environment management included an initial survey to identify species and habitats, and to determine the potential impacts of policing operations.

The Wanstead site contained no protected species, but records from the area indicated historical sightings of several species, including protected bats. It was also close to habitats of high wildlife value, which, in the absence of appropriate safeguards, could have been impacted by the MBDC.

As result, a trench housing a temporary utility supply to the site was carefully directed to avoid disturbing ant nests. The initial layout of the centre was also redesigned to ensure that no temporary structures would be erected near to any tree roots.

The City of London took grass cuttings 12 months in advance of the construction of the Wanstead centre so that it could re-grass the area if required. One of the many habitat surveys there later identified the piles of grass cuttings as suitable egg-laying sites for native snakes and they were moved offsite to avoid interfering with the species’ nesting and egg-laying periods.

Measures to maintain the ecological value of the sites were implemented by the environment team during the construction phase. These included the use of robust protective fencing and clear signage to ensure that vehicles remained entirely within the site boundaries.

Grange believes the Met’s wide-ranging efforts are now starting to help realise Locog’s vision of a sustainable legacy following the London 2012 games. “Our approach continues to affect areas from event planning to what sort of packaging is used for officers’ snack packs,” he says.

“Some procedures, such as the strategic planning framework for sustainable events that assesses the likelihood of impacts from event-related activities, have become embedded in the Met’s approach to large-scale events, particularly for waste management and procurement practices. We now aim for all our events to be zero-waste to landfill and so far, so good.”


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