Good news from the Zero Waste Running department: one more thing that has been going to the landfill at our events turns out to be recyclable!

I’m talking about a particular item familiar to people who run races of all distances. (See the featured photo if you need a hint.) Read on to find out how to recycle them!

Now I’m sure there are a few more runners like me, who’s saved (just about) my bib from every race I’ve run, which as of this year passed 100 total events. But not everybody wants free wallpaper for their current or planned “athlete cave” and so at most events Happy Planet Running services, we find a few bibs in the trash.

Not so big a deal? Perhaps at the event. But who knows how many people take home their bibs, keep them on their refrigerators for a week or so, then throw them away in their household trash?

Last week I attended the U.S. Trail Running Conference, held this year in Estes Park, Colorado, as gorgeous a place as you’ll ever find, especially if you love mountains. One of the exhibitors was a race bib manufacturer, and during a break I (perhaps unfairly) put him on the spot by asking if he was ever planning to switch to a recyclable material.

Well, did I learn a bunch.

View from the Stanley 2
View from the Stanley Hotel, site of the conference. Unfortunately, they didn’t recycle the conference waste. I’ll have to have a word with them.

Just about all race bibs produced today are made from Tyvek, produced by DuPont. And Tyvek is made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE), otherwise known as #2 plastic. And #2 plastic is one of the most commonly recycled materials.

Except that when it’s woven into Tyvek, it’s not in a form that can be processed by most traditional recyclers. Like plastic bags, it can gum up the works at the MRF.

But there’s a solution! If your local recycler won’t accept Tyvek, DuPont will. They’ve set up a network of recyclers. One of them is in Petersburg, VA. Just put your Tyvek in an envelope and mail it to the address at this site. For larger quantities, they’ll even send you a pouch to put it in.

Tyvek return pouch

And speaking of envelopes: you know those flexible large envelopes FedEx and UPS use? Those are Tyvek, too – and they can be recycled with the race bibs.

So HPR will be experimenting with a “used bib collection box” at some upcoming events. We’ll see if it succeeds in capturing enough of this waste stream to keep it going!

Also as part of the conference, I learned about a novel approach taken by the Ragnar Relay Series. As part of their effort to go Zero Waste (more on that in a future post) they use only one race bib per team. The bib is attached to a belt, and each runner hands off that belt to the next runner. A bib is a small thing by itself, but save four bibs per relay team, and it adds up, saving both money and materials.

Bag made of race bibs
Or you could make them into ultra-cool tote bags!

For more information, and for more examples of things you have around your house made with Tyvek, check out this post from the My Plastic Free Life blog.

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