Flirting with Zero! Flirt with Dirt achieves 99% Diversion

ONE BROKEN PINT GLASS. One discarded race bib. A few strands of masking tape. A few odds and ends. That was it for trash.

Sustainability Report: Flirt with Dirt 2017
Date: June 3, 2017
Event company: RF Events, Ann Arbor MI
Location: Lakeshore Park, Novi MI
# Attendees: 500 runners
Zero Waste Team volunteers: 3

Race Overview

Flirt with Dirt is a Saturday morning 5K and 10K through running and bike trails at a park in Novi. It’s part of the RF Events “Serious Series” that includes a half marathon (The Legend) and Trail Marathon (5 miles up to 50K).

This event is short and sweet; the 5K starts at 7:30 a.m., the 10K at 8:15, and it’s all over and done with by 10:30. It’s popular both with seasoned trail runners, (many of whom choose to run both distances) and families; the 10-14 age group had more 5K runners than most of the adult age groups!

Zero Waste Plan

Waste would be generated at the start/finish area where post-race water and food were served, and at two aid stations which offered water and Gatorade.

Food was bananas, cookies, and pretzels served on compostable papers, so there were no plates or serving utensils to worry about. Most of the recyclables would be cups and cardboard from T-shirt and finisher pint glass boxes, with some water jugs. Many runners also brought along Gu packets, which would be collected separately for TerraCycle.

We set up one Zero Hero tent just past the finish line, and two near the food tent.

The park took our collected recycling, which saved us from having to order a rolloff or take them back to our local recycling center. Happy Planet Running took the plastic bags/wrap, Gu packets for TerraCycle, and the compost for dropoff at a local commercial composting farm.


An overall 99% landfill diversion rate – one of our best ever!

Breakdown by waste stream:

  • Compostables: 31.7 lbs. (25.8 %)
  • Recyclables (partially estimated): 90 lbs. (73.2 %)
  • Landfill (estimated): 1.2 lbs. (1 %)
Flirt with Dirt - Weighing Recyclables
Collecting the awesome stats.

What Went Right

Everything went smoothly on a dry, perfect morning for a trail race. Three Zero Waste volunteers were sufficient to set up, assist runners with disposal, police the area, and take everything down. We were even able to save materials from the park’s waste cans that runners used on the way out.

We were able to keep the waste streams “clean” in the tents, so final sort was very quick. The aid stations also did a good job; their waste bags required only minimal sorting.

Opportunities for Improvement

The park’s trash cans by the bathrooms had quite a bit of banana peels and other waste from the race. We were able to recover it, but next year we should hide those cans and put a tent or two there instead.

What We’ll Do Differently Next Time

Hard to improve much on this year’s effort! But we can see if waste reduction is possible at this event, such as having the runners rely more on handheld water bottles instead of disposable cups and bottles.

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