Scared Trashless! Run Scream Run 2018 Sustainability Report

Imagine 1,500 monsters running through a haunted orchard, hungry for cider and donuts afterward. But there’s something even scarier than a haunted orchard, and that’s a haunted orchard full of litter.

Who you gonna call? TRASH BUSTERS!

Was the Zero Waste team frightened by all the scary runners and their trash? We ain’t afraid of no ghosts!

Sustainability Report: Run Scream Run
Date: October 13, 2018
Event company: RF Events, Ann Arbor MI
Location: Wiard’s Orchards, Ypsilanti MI
# Attendees: 1,500
Zero Waste Team size: 2-6

Pie chart - Run Scream Run 2018Results

  • Compostables: 36.4 lbs.
  • Recyclables: 231.7 lbs.
  • Landfill: 7 lbs.

Comparison vs. 2017: Compostables dropped by nearly half, and recyclables increased. Cause is unclear, as attendance was similar and post-race food remained cider and donuts. Trash remained virtually the same.

Main contributors to trash were waxed papers from donut boxes, some heat packets, wrappers and bags contaminated with food waste, and the requisite bag of dog poop.

RSR 2018 - Scary single bag of trash
The (very scary) single bag of trash.

Race Overview

Run Scream Run takes “scary running” to a new level. While it’s a morning race, there is plenty of frightful stuff going on. Zombies lurk along the 5K and 10K courses through the orchard and nearby woods, and near the finish runners travel through an entire haunted village of broken-down buildings inhabited by mummies, chain-saw crazies, and other evil critters. Costumes are popular, and there are prizes for the ones judged best.

RSR 2018 - Scary Randy
The race director has some incentive for you to run fast.
RSR 2018 - Gollum and Unicorn
(See orange arrows.) Which one is scarier?

The Zero Waste team is busiest in the post-race food area, where runners discard their water bottles and receive cider and donuts. Although the race averages 1,500 runners, it has one of the lowest waste totals of the year’s events. The key is to keep the waste steams sorted real-time, as wet donuts can cause a lot of contamination if they get into the recyclables. And while cardboard boxes of medals and mugs can be recycled, the donut boxes generally need composting, and the two types should be kept separate.

RSR 2018 - Cider and donuts line
Donut line. The empty boxes pile up pretty fast for some reason.

Zero Waste Plan

We set up the Ground Zero sorting station under a pavilion near the cider and donuts area, with bins for compost, recycling, and trash. We set up tents near the porta-potties and near the awards station, and two along the path leading from the cider and donuts to the parking lot.


At the finish line. I left a bag to collect plastic wrap from cases of water bottles, concealing it from the runners (with mixed success).

The orchard had several trash cans in the perimeter of the race area. We either removed them or integrated them with our tents during the races, and replaced them afterward.

The aid station and registration tent got bins for recycling.

Due to an expected low volume of recyclables, we did not reserve a recycling rolloff this year, instead using a trailer to take them to a dropoff facility.

What Went Well

The tent and bin locations fit the traffic flow well. Very few items of trash were found on the ground.

The volunteers working the cider and donuts lines helped break down the empty boxes so we could more easily take them to the trailer. We also designated some boxes to hold loose cider jug caps, disposable gloves, and other small plastics for TerraCycle.

We had an experienced Zero Waste team. Rachel, the same terrific volunteer who’d sorted all the bags of compostables at Oberun, patrolled the tents and kept them sorted. After the race we got additional assistance from several folks who’d helped at the Scrumpy Skedaddle. “It’s like a reunion!” one of them said.

RSR 2018 - Rachel staffing a tent

RSR 2018 - Team Zero Waste

The 5×8 trailer was sufficient to hold all the recyclables and some equipment, although it and the back of my Jeep were full at the end.


There was more waste from the registration tent than I expected, and it was all mixed together. I should have seen that donuts and lunches for the volunteers were also set up there, and added bins for compostables and trash.

Despite concealing the bag for plastic wrap at the finish line, some people found it and used it for water bottles and other discarded items.

Post-Event Waste Processing

The race rosters and signs had been sealed in plastic. They were cut open, the paper recycled, and the plastic put in a TerraCycle Zero Waste Box, along with small plastics, race bibs, decorations, and other difficult-to-recycle materials.

RSR 2018 - Recovering sealed papers

Opportunities for Improvement

Give the registration tent a full set of bins. They are next to the parking lot, a ten-minute walk from the race area. If there are sufficient volunteers, one could be assigned there.

Put a bin for water bottles near the finish line for those runners who drink quickly.

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