Circular thinking in a complex urban environment

Circular by design

LLDC took responsibility for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park after the 2012 London Games. Its role was to transform the infrastructure and develop a dynamic new heart for east London, creating opportunities for local people and driving innovation and growth.

Circular thinking was already woven into the design and build of the Olympic Park, its venues and facilities. It is an excellent example of how, by designing for adaptability from the outset, buildings, products and materials can continue to provide high value return beyond their initial purpose.

An Asset Disposal scheme was set up to help contractors make good re-use of items and materials that were no longer needed after the Games by selling them or gifting them to charities and good causes. For example, the nine modular cabins that formed the ‘High Street’ in the Athletes’ Village are now used as a community hub in Hackney Wick. The warm-up running track, which was laid without tarmac so that it could be easily removed, was donated to British Athletics. Colourful rubber matting used on bridges and walkways throughout the park was re-used at a primary school in Northern Ireland, and lamp columns were donated to a local skate park.

Creating impact

Since then, LLDC has continued to look for opportunities to apply circular thinking in its mission to create jobs, skills and business growth across the local area. Their approach so far has been to focus on partnership initiatives that have the most potential to create impact. “We are working with the fashion sector through the London College of Fashion which moved to a new site on the Park recently, and the East London Fashion Cluster,” explains Jennifer Daothong, Head of Strategy and Sustainability.

“For example, we were involved with Circular Fashion For London, a City Challenge competition that offered a €10,000 prize for ideas and start-ups that had potential to create systemic change for circular fashion loops in London.”

One of the winners, EN.cycle(d), is a company that has pioneered an innovative textile printing and cleaning service that enables the re-use of branded T-shirts, such as those worn by staff and volunteers at large events. The idea has potential to extend the life of T-shirts many times over with obvious advantages for event organisers at large venues everywhere, including those who operate at the Olympic Park.

“We are pleased to support innovative circular businesses like EN.cycle(d), for example, their products and services provide valuable links that help to establish the circular economy in London,” says Elliot Bushay, Sustainability Project Officer at LLDC.

Another of the winners, an online peer-to-peer clothes sharing platform called Nu Wardrobe, is in the process of setting up in Hackney to provide its services in universities and colleges across the capital.

Looking Ahead

To further embed circular economy principles at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, value chains that can be scaled and work for the London economy need to be established from the beginning to end of material processes through creative thinking and collaborative working.

In 2018 London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) is planning to bring together a wide range of public, private and academic stakeholders in a major event, designed to explore and develop circular economy thinking for Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the surrounding area of east London.

The event will tackle head on the challenges of applying circular principles to a complex urban environment with its many and various activities, constituents and supply chains. It is a brave move and also a logical next step for an organisation that has already proved the value of circular principles in its impressive transformation of the Park following the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Engage with London's circular economy community