Third Time’s the Charm! T-Rex Tri achieves 97.5% Diversion

The final race of the T-Rex series of sprint triathlons this year takes place on a perfect summer evening, and results in the best Zero Waste result of the three.

Sustainability Report: T-Rex Triathlon 2017
Date: August 23, 2017
Event company: RF Events, Ann Arbor MI
Location: Island Lake Recreation Area, Brighton MI
# Attendees: 420 triathletes
Zero Waste Team volunteers: 3

Race Overview

The T-Rex is the third of a set of three summer triathlons at Island Lake Park. The others in the series are the Triceratops (June) and the Pterodactyl (July). All are sprint triathlons – half mile swim, 12.4 mile bike, 5K run – and follow the same course.

T-Rex 2017 - Start of swim

T-Rex 2017 - Cyclists

T-Rex 2017 - Runner

This is an evening event, starting at 6:00 p.m. and wrapped up by 9:00.

Zero Waste Plan

As usual, we set up one tent next to the registration area and three tents in the post-race area, and put bins for compost, recycling, wrappers, and trash near Bike Out and Run Out. The sorting station was set up next to the trash area.

T-Rex 2017 - Kid pointing to tent

The finish area got a bin specifically for plastic bags and plastic wrap, as well as one for general recycling, mainly to capture water bottles.

Implementing an opportunity for improvement from the Pterodactyl Tri, we covered the park’s waste cans by the entrance/exit to the race and put compost and recycling bins there instead.

T-Rex 2017 - Rod

Two run aid stations offered water and Gatorade. There are always a few Gu wrappers mixed in with the cups, so the bags are checked when they arrive at the sorting station.

Post-race food included pita sandwiches, pasta salad, and cookies.

The park takes our collected recycling. Happy Planet Running took the plastic bags/wrap, Gu packets for TerraCycle, and the compost for dropoff at a local commercial composting farm.


The best results of the series this year, with 97.5 percent diversion and half the landfill weight of Pterodactyl! Breakdown by waste stream:

  • Compostables: 44.7 lbs. (26.1 %)
  • Recyclables: 122.2 lbs. (71.5 %)
  • Landfill: 4.1 lbs. (2.4 %)

What Went Right

At the Pterodactyl Tri, there was a lot of trash on the ground in the transition area at the end of the event. More regular policing of the transition area, and extra pails for Gu and other wrappers, resulted in substantially less of this at T-Rex.

Food (pasta and sandwiches) is provided in large aluminum pans. One of the RF Events staff members takes these pans and cleans them for reuse at other races. This reduces overall waste and saves us from having to rinse the pans to make them recyclable.

The finish area generates a lot of waste cardboard from boxes of medals. For this event there were two medals – one for the T-Rex, and another for those who completed all three events. The volunteers in the finish area broke down and boxed up all the waste cardboard instead of just piling it up, an extra effort the Zero Waste team really appreciated.

Opportunities for Improvement

I found out that contrary to my belief, the park does not normally recycle. They take ours because they know it will be free of food waste and non-recyclable trash. However, they have just installed a recycle bin with solar trash compactor near the beach, and I was told they intend to add more. So the Zero Waste setup should begin even earlier than 3:00 if we want to avoid early participants throwing away recoverable materials.

This event gets dark much faster than the other two, and I had to finish sorting and weighing the waste while wearing a headlamp. Starting the teardown and waste processing earlier would help, especially because the aid station waste often comes in late as well.

T-Rex 2017 - Rod holding single bag of trash
Zero Waste team member Rod holds all the trash with one hand!

What We’ll Do Differently Next Time

Close the park’s waste can area earlier.

Begin taking down the tents and processing bins earlier.

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