Swim to the Moon 2018 Sustainability Report

Another excellent Zero Waste result from an Epic Races event, with lower trash and an improved diversion result.

Sustainability Report: Swim to the Moon 2018
Date: August 19, 2018
Event company: Epic Races, Ann Arbor MI
Location: Halfmoon Lake, Pinckney MI
# Attendees: 600 swimmers
Zero Waste Team size: 2

Pie chart - Swim to the Moon 2018Results

  • Compostables: 62.3 lbs.
  • Recyclables: 173.5 lbs.
  • Landfill: 18.8 lbs.

Comparison vs. 2017: Despite having to include wrappers with the landfill trash (see below), landfill decreased from 19.7 lbs, and diversion percentage increased from 91.9 percent to 92.6 percent.

Race Overview

Swim to the Moon is a set of swimming races held in the Pinckney Recreation Area. Halfmoon Beach is the starting area for the 1.2 mile and 10K swims, and the beach at North Star Reach campground is the starting area for the 5K. All races end at Halfmoon Beach. The race benefits North Star Reach, a camp for kids with serious medical conditions.

Post-race entertainment included a live calypso-style band and a brunch of pancakes and rice & beans with egg. Bags of chips, candy, and ice cream sandwiches are also offered.

It was a beautiful morning for the event.

Zero Waste Plan

As with last year, no tents were used. Instead, stations consisted of bins for compostables and recyclables, with a blue pail for other waste. For this year, wrappers were treated as landfill trash, as due to other commitments I would be unable to properly process them for TerraCycle, and, not surprisingly, nobody else volunteered to do the job.

Stations were set up on either end of the food tent. The registration tent and food tent also had dedicated bins for their waste. A station was also set up along the pathway to the parking lot, where the park had an existing trash can (covered during the event).

Swim to the Moon 2018 - Aaron manning a station
Aaron (race volunteer) staffs a busy station near the food tent.

I set up one station at North Star Reach and staffed it until the 5K swimmers had all started. The beach kept two bins (compost and recycle) as part of their aid station for the 10K swimmers.

The plates, bowls, and forks used by the food tent were all compostable – an improvement from last year when waxed paper bowls were used and had to be put in the landfill trash due to contamination from food waste. The collected compostables were taken to Tuthill Farms after the event.

Last year the recyclables went to MSU Recycling, as the beach area does not recycle. This year they went to Western Washtenaw Recycling, which is closer and accepts the same materials. Plastic bags were saved for later dropoff at Recycle Ann Arbor, and some party materials (disposable tablecloths, cable ties, and small plastic items) for TerraCycle.

What Went Well

The use of compostable materials helped simplify the disposal process by the swimmers.

The extra “bottles empty / caps on” signs appear to have worked, as we had fewer bottles to empty out and fewer loose caps.


Many ice cream bar wrappers were tossed into the compost and recycling bins, although technically they are neither, as they are waxed and contaminated with ice cream. They had to be constantly pulled out and put in with the wrappers.

A shortage of volunteers meant we couldn’t staff all the stations, which resulted in extra sorting.

Opportunities for Improvement

Go back to bins for wrappers, and add ice cream bars to the sign, at least for this event.

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