T-Rex Triathlon Sustainability Report

Another good result from the summer triathlon series, although trash was higher than usual due to time crunch.

Sustainability Report: T-Rex Triathlon 2018
Date: August 22, 2018
Event company: RF Events, Ann Arbor MI
Location: Island Lake Park, Brighton MI
# Attendees: 450 triathletes
Zero Waste Team volunteers: 3

Pie chart - T-Rex Tri 2018Results

  • Compostables: 15.4 lbs.
  • Recyclables: 112.4 lbs.
  • Landfill: 12.8 lbs.

Comparison vs. 2017: Total waste dropped from 171 lbs. to 141 lbs. But landfill trash tripled (12.8 lbs. vs. 4.1 lbs) and diversion percentage dropped from 97.5 percent to 91 percent. See below for the reason.

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.

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

Zero Waste Plan

We made several changes to our standard waste station setup for this triathlon series:

  • The registration tent location changed slightly. As a result, we moved the tent normally next to it into the path to the transition area, to improve its visibility. After race start it was moved to the exit to the parking lot.
  • We set up only two tents in the post-race area, to reduce overhead and because fewer vendors were present.
  • I placed a set of bins in the volunteer check-in area to handle food and drink consumed by the volunteers and staff. (In addition, I replaced the waxed paper bowls and cups, and plastic utensils, with compostable ones.)

T-Rex Tri 2018 - Volunteer area bins

The finish area got its other two standard tents, along with a bag for plastic bags and one for bottles. Transition got a set of bins near Bike Out and an all-waste pail at Run Out.

I (Zero Waste team captain) also made the difficult decision to treat wrappers and TerraCycle materials as trash, as I normally process those materials post-race and would be out of town for the following two weeks. This was the reason for the increase in trash and the decrease in landfill diversion percentage.

Aid stations collected paper cups, gallon water jugs, Gatorade powder cans and cardboard boxes, which were brought back to “Ground Zero” at takedown.

T-Rex Tri 2018 - Carrie at Ground Zero station

Compost went to Tuthill Farms and recycling was collected by the park.

I dedicated one volunteer to the transition area to keep the bins in order and help pick up waste left by the athletes, mainly the small plastic tabs from their ankle tags.

What Went Well

Everything went smoothly. The one fewer tent did not appear to cause any problems. Also, the compostable bowls used by the volunteers for pasta cut down on the trash (no oily waxed paper to deal with).


Being late in the summer, it got dark quickly, making final sort challenging.

Opportunities for Improvement

Bring more headlamps for the volunteers doing final sort.

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