Date: Saturday, January 21, 2017
Event company: RF Events, Ann Arbor MI
Location: Timber Ridge Resort, Traverse City MI
# Attendees: 480 runners, about 100 spectators
Zero Waste Team volunteers: 4
The Bigfoot Snowshoe 5K/10K is one of two RF Events races held in the Traverse City area. It’s a popular race, in part because it’s a qualifier for the National Championship Snowshoe race, but there are plenty of people who go out just for fun.The resort provides one of their lodge buildings to keep people warm and for serving post-race food. Traverse City is a very “green” city and we were determined to hold up our end!
Zero Waste Plan
Waste would be generated just about entirely inside the lodge, so we set up three bins each at the two exits; one for food waste, one for recyclables, and one for trash.
Traverse City has excellent facilities to handle a Zero Waste effort. American Waste has a state-of-the-art Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) and accepts many materials that are not accepted by other recyclers, such as Styrofoam, plastic bags, and lined cups such as those used by Starbucks and other coffee shops. Since our volume would be fairly low, we planned to take them to a nearby American Waste drop-off station.
The food waste would be taken to Carter’s Compost, a neighborhood composting service (click here to find out what’s particularly special about Carter). We’d used his service for the Run Vasa trail race last November, and despite this race being held in the middle of winter, he agreed to take our Bigfoot food race too.
This event generated one of our lowest amounts of waste, with just 53.7 pounds total. We achieved a diversion rate of 86 percent, a bit under our overall average of 90 percent, but quite acceptable.
Breakdown by waste stream:
- Compostables: 10 lbs. (18.6 %)
- Recyclables: 35.3 lbs. (65.7 %)
- Donated food: 1 lb. (1.9 %)
- Landfill: 7.4 lbs. (13.8 %)
What Went Right
Total waste was pretty light for this size event. Post-race food was chili, bread, and cookies, so most of the waste was just disposable bowls, spoons, and napkins. There were no aid stations, so cups were only used at one table just outside the lodge where water and Gatorade were set up. There were also a fair number of discarded cups from various coffee shops, but no problem – American Waste accepts them for recycling.
The use of Styrofoam for the chili bowls was a mixed blessing. It was recyclable, but there was substantial chili residue. I decided to salvage as much as possible by rinsing the used bowls. The resort had a kitchen prep area in our building, complete with a large double sink, allowing for easy and (reasonably) quick rinsing.
Opportunities for Improvement
Despite signage posted on the bins, bowls and spoons wound up in every type of bin – composting, recycling, and trash. My choice of words on the signs was confusing. Does “Food Waste Only” mean bowls and spoons, too? People must have thought so. Finally I posted myself by one set of bins and assisted people with disposal, at the cost of the unattended bins needing much more sorting.
I was solo during the rush because I mistakenly told the other volunteers (my wife and some friends) that things wouldn’t “heat up” waste-wise for a while. I suggested they go into town to breakfast. Oops. When they got back the rush had passed, so we lost the opportunity to do more pre-sorting and assistance. But they pitched in like troopers and we finished in a reasonable time.
The Styrofoam bowls were time-consuming to manage, as they needed to be pulled out of every bin (messy). And rinsing them was not all that entertaining. Not something I want to do again next year.
What We’ll Do Differently Next Time
Look into having the caterers use compostable bowls and spoons. That way, everything can go into a compostable bin, greatly reducing the need to sort through messy bins. We’ll also need to locate a commercial composter in the area who can process the bowls and spoons.
Start a couple more volunteers earlier, so all the bins can be policed real-time, reducing confusion and post-event sorting.