Worms feast on Olympic waste
SYDNEY - Fancy a drop of Chateau de Sydney 2000? It wont tickle your palate but it will do wonders for your wisteria. Thats because this Olympic vintage is worm wee.
"Liquid dirt is how some people describe this, but its good dirt," said Peter Otteson, an environmental programme manager at Sydneys "Green Games".
He then donned a pair of red rubber gloves and plunged his hands into a steel tray of wriggling worms chomping away at the food waste behind the kitchens at the Olympic press centre.
"It seems like theres nothing going on, but you just scrape the surface and there they are," he said.
Olympic organisers have set up four "worm farms at the Games, each stocked with an army of 400,000 red worms and tiger worms.
The mineral-rich solid "vermicast" and liquid "worm pee" they produce for gardeners is a tiny, experimental part of a much bigger project to stop the Games becoming a load of rubbish.
It aims to recycle four-fifths of the 8,000 to 10,000 tonnes of waste that the Olympics will generate, half of it food and food packaging, through composting and other forms of waste management.
The disposable knives and forks at venue restaurants and canteens are made of corn starch and what look like paper plates are really produced from sugar cane.
"You could eat it, but why would you want to?" said Otteson.
And the worms may even save SOCOG, the Games organisers, from any possible scandal.
Journalists hunting for secret documents in the rubbish bins behind Sydney 2000s 14-storey headquarters in downtown Sydney will find nothing. Documents get shredded and fed to the worms.
"They love it," Otteson said.
DONT BURY IT, DONT BURN IT
Australia bans the incineration of waste, much of which gets buried.
"In large events, the practice has been to dump the lot," said Otteson. "We recognised that we would have to do far, far better than that."
Greenpeace has given Games organisers qualified approval for their environmental programme, which includes the use of solar power at all competition venues and the 665-house athletes village - the worlds largest solar powered suburb.
But the group awarded Sydney only a bronze medal, arguing more should have been done to clean up toxic waste in Homebush Bay and on land adjacent to the main Olympic Park.
The venue is built on an old industrial site which contained millions of tonnes of waste, including cancer-causing dioxin. Some 400 tonnes of dioxin have been buried in special bunkers.
"It will be safe for the Games but there is a longer legacy that we still need to be assured of," said Greenpeace toxic waste campaigner Daryl Luscombe.
Story by Paul Holmes
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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