Some really good things have been happening recently with plastic recycling. And a few of them relate directly to the plastic we consume and discard at running events.

Even at the Zero Waste events I work at and/or run in, plastic remains highly used, from water bottles and jugs to coffee and beer cups, disposable plates and tableware, and more. The good news is that most of it is highly recyclable. But some of it is not accepted by recyclers, and, I’m sad to say, too much of it ends up in landfills, or worse, in sewers or waterways where it wends its way to the oceans, as part of the estimated eight million metric tons added each year.

So I’m pleased to relate some examples of how some of this plastic waste is either being recovered, or otherwise diverted into productive reuse. It’s a start – and YOU can help!

Out of the Oceans, Into the Shoes

The Adidas Parley Ultra Boost shoes are finally here! Developed in a partnership with nonprofit Parley for the Oceans, these running shoes incorporate plastic from recycled bottles – 11 bottles worth, according to Adidas – and the shoe’s upper is made of plastic recovered from ocean waste.

Despite their price tag of $180 and up, which is even more than new Hokas, I will be looking into acquiring a pair. When I do, I’ll be sure to post a review here. In the meantime, there are many reviews already posted on You Tube, so you don’t have to wait for mine to find out more.

Adidas Ultra Boost Shoe Review on You Tube
Like this one. (Click to view.)

In a related note, TerraCycle has started a beach plastics recycling program. Go to their website, sign up for the “Rigid Beach Plastics” program, and send in what you collect! It just has to be rigid plastic found on a beach somewhere. Even better than pulling plastic out of the ocean is keeping it out of the ocean to start with. I’m sure Parley and Adidas won’t mind.

Recycling Energy Gels – How Sweet It Is!

Distance runners rely on quick calories, coming in large part from GU, Honey Stinger, and like products that supply a sugary gel in plastic packets. A marathon or ultra can see hundreds of them consumed and discarded. But a used packet is too contaminated with remaining contents to be included with standard recyclables, so all too often they end up in the trash.

TerraCycle has had a program for recovering GU products. But they recently improved the program by allowing gels, chews, drink mix, recovery drink and waffle wrappers from all such brands. It can all be packaged and sent in together. So get with this program, or find a collection center near you. Not only do you reduce race trash, you generate points that become donations to charity.

TerraCycle collection
Collected materials for TerraCycle from just two races.

Bag Up Those Bags!

Plastic bags and wrap are used everywhere, and races are no exception. Water bottle cases and food boxes are shrink-wrapped, ice is supplied in plastic bags, and finisher medals are often double-wrapped in plastic to protect them during shipment, resulting in hours of unwrapping fun for the finish line volunteers. It can add up to a lot of waste, by both weight and volume, yet many recyclers won’t accept them.

What to do? Bag ‘em up! As long as the bags and wrap are #2 or #4 plastic (as most are), many stores nationwide will collect them for recycling. See the Plastic Film Recycling website for full details about what types of plastic bags are accepted and where to drop them off.

More Ways You Can Help

Please share this post with your favorite race director or run club. Every little bit helps! And be sure to put the bug in their ears that you care about the environment and that they can do something to make it better.

You can learn about many more waste streams that can be recycled by visiting the TerraCycle website. Some programs are free, and some cost a few bucks, but if you were wondering what to do with all those old basketballs, for example, look it up there!

And, of course, please consider following this website to get the latest on Zero Waste running, and results from actual races that apply these techniques. And do you have a sustainable race you’d like to have featured here? Tell me about it using the “Contact HPR” link!

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