Up Front

Cleaning up the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games

The organisers of the 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation highlight their multipronged approach to sustainability, waste management and recycling.

The first ever British Empire Games were held in Hamilton, Canada in 1930. With the onset of the Great Depression, resources were scarce.

Since then, the games have grown from an event featuring 11 countries and 400 athletes to a modern sporting spectacle, comprising 70 nations and territories and more than 6600 athletes and team officials. That’s according to the organisers of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation (GOLDOC), who are now prepping themselves for an influx of waste at this year’s event.

Rhys Ewers, Cleaning and Waste Section at GOLDOC, tells Waste Management Review that approximately 1.2 million ticketed spectators are expected to pass through the gates during the 4-15 April event this year. With a workforce of some 16,000, including volunteers and contractors, it is the largest mega-sporting event to take place in Australia this decade.

“Each event has the opportunity to improve on the previous one and being a competitive sporting nation we’re always keen to do one better! We’ve achieved a lot of ‘firsts’ for Gold Coast 2018 (GC2018) and our sustainability reach has been extensive,” Rhys explains.

Rhys says that waste generation at previous games shows levels of around 1000 tonnes. To put this in perspective, the City of Gold Coast manages more than half a million tonnes of waste per annum. Rhys says waste streams for previous events are similar to GC2018, with GOLDOC adding further recovery streams to divert more waste from landfill.

Establishing sustainability policies for wide scale events such as GOLDOC is complex.

GOLDOC’s multipronged approach comprises environmentally responsible procurement policies and trade deals, including guidance on materials and packaging requirements. Minimising litter and avoiding plastic bags and helium balloons also forms part of their strategy, in addition to coordinating its recycling and reducing litter to best practice methods and training its workforce accordingly.


According to Chelli Easson, GOLDOC Manager Sustainability and Legacy, the organisation’s procurement approach takes into account everything ranging from production impacts such as ethical sourcing and environmental considerations, to legacy opportunities for assets that have been procured outright. When procuring, the organisation considers whole-of-life costs, not simply the cheapest product or service, she says.

“In many cases GOLDOC has elected to hire goods where there is no legacy benefit and the goods are only required for the event period. That has allowed us to minimise the waste and carbon impact of the event and mitigate other sustainability issues related to the production of goods,” she explains.

“When we source responsibly our whole supply chain is positively impacted, from material selection to labour rights and local capacity building.”

As part of its corporate social responsibility, GOLDOC also works with its suppliers and sponsors to responsibly manage their products. Its sustainable sourcing code sets a minimum standard for suppliers, including sponsors, to comply with when providing goods and services to GOLDOC. The materials and packaging policy similarly stipulates what GOLDOC suppliers can bring into GC2018 venues.

“GOLDOC has formed an Asset Dissolution Working Group and have worked with every single one of our more than 40 departments and government partners to go through a process of identifying assets and possible legacy outcomes,” Rhys says.


Recycling at GOLDOC will be divided into front of house and back of house streams. Front of house consists of recycling and landfill, while back of house waste streams consist of cardboard/paper, compost, soft plastics, glass and batteries, fats and oils and medical waste.

Rhys says that GOLDOC’s approach to recycling and waste management for both GOLDOC’s headquarters and the GC2018 event is based on the waste and recovery hierarchy. GOLDOC has even adapted the waste hierarchy and called it a resource recovery hierarchy to encourage its workforce to think differently about precious resources.

“Our recycling practices were awarded an innovation point by the Green Building Council of Australia, contributing to our four Star Green Star – Interiors PILOT rating for our Ashmore headquarters,” he says.


According to GOLDOC’s Materials and Packaging Policy, up to 85 per cent of waste generated by the general public is expected to be from food and beverage packaging sold by catering contractors. Rhys says to match Gold Coast waste facilities and recycling capabilities, the organisation has designed its materials and packaging guidelines around all recyclable packaging.

“Our aim is to have the majority of food packaging recycled due to this approach,” he adds.

“Packaging (including food packaging) will also be minimised to avoid unnecessary packaging costs, demand for raw materials and carbon emissions.

“All packaging in venue will need to follow the sustainable sourcing code and the materials and packaging policy.”

GC2018’s recycling and waste management systems and practices will be designed to maximise diversion from landfill within the constraints of the city’s existing recycling and waste management facilities. Rhys says GOLDOC’s materials and packaging policy will be a key contributor to the responsible management of GC2018 waste.


Rhys says the organisation has planned to maximise efficiencies and phase out unnecessary waste wherever possible. Spectators will be reminded to dispose of their litter thoughtfully and to use the correct bins.

“Training will be provided to our 15,000 volunteers and more than 1400 workforce as well as contractors to recycle, look out for rubbish and put it in the right bin,” he says.

“We rely on the support of our suppliers, contractors, workforce and spectators to play a role in managing litter.

“We are avoiding light-weight plastic bags and helium balloons. This was an important issue raised by the local community and we are encouraging spectators to bring their own re-usable water bottle, with water refill points provided on venue.”


Guiding GC2018’s sustainability delivery is the international standard ISO 20121: Event Sustainability Management System and the Global Reporting Initiative framework for sustainability reporting. By implementing these frameworks incorporating stakeholder consultation and feedback, GOLDOC has identified the following key sustainability priorities for GC2018: food and beverage (reducing packaging waste), transport (encouraging public transport), accessibility and inclusion (eliminating barriers), environmental impacts (protecting oceans and waterways), carbon (minimising emissions), sustainable procurement, understanding community expectations and reducing waste to landfill.

“Sustainability is all about continuous improvement. Some people just don’t know where to start with their sustainability journey. Incremental steps do add up and amount to bigger outcomes,” Rhys says.

“Certainly the international frameworks have provided us with great guidance for tackling an event of this size and they also help to compare events and make improvements.”

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