Dino-mite! 2019 Triceratops Triathlon Sustainability Report

A great start to this year’s T-Rex Triathlon series. Despite a few hiccups the Zero Waste team kept on top of things and achieved nearly 98 percent landfill diversion!

Sustainability Report: Triceratops Triathlon 2019
Date: June 26, 2019
Event company: RF Events, Ann Arbor MI
Location: Island Lake Park, Brighton MI
# Attendees: 460 triathletes
Zero Waste Team size: 3

Results: 97.9 percent landfill diversion
Compostables: 27.8 lbs.     Recyclables: 140.3 lbs.     Landfill: 3.6 lbs.
Pie and trend charts - Triceratops Tri 2019
The spike up in recycling this year reflects an increase in cardboard from 34 lbs. to 65 lbs. I’m not sure of the source of the extra volume.

Landfill trash contained mainly non-recyclable fast food packaging and other waste that did not originate from the race. See “Challenges” and “Opportunities for Improvement” below for more on this.

Triceratops Tri 2019 - Me with single bag o trash
Our standard SBoT (single bag o’ trash).

Race Overview

The Triceratops is the first of a set of three summer triathlons at Island Lake Park. The others in the series are the Pterodactyl (July) and the T-Rex (August). All are sprint triathlons – half mile swim, 12.4 mile bike, 5K run – and follow the same course. In the finish area athletes got sandwiches and bags of chips and listened to live music. The race begins at 6:00 p.m. and ends by 9:00.

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Zero Waste Plan

Ground Zero, the sorting station, was set up just in front of one of the park’s trash boxes on the way to the parking lot, and near registration. This year we added a table next to registration with information on the Zero Waste program.

Triceratops Tri 2019 - HPR educational table

Stations were Zero Hero tents (Compost, Recycling, Wrappers) with a pail for trash.

One station was set up by the registration tent. After race start it moved to one of the main exits to the parking lot. Another station was set up at the other main exit. Three stations roughly surrounded the finish & food area.

Triceratops Tri 2019 - Me setting up a station
Setting up a station in the finish area.
Triceratops Tri 2019 - Ground Zero and station at main exit to parking lot
Ground Zero and one of the stations by the parking lot.

Transition: one station on either side of Bike in/Out (also check in and out), and one “All Waste” box at Run Out. Also, as litter in transition has been a problem, we added signs asking the athletes to please pick up their areas at checkout.

Triceratops Tri 2019 - Station at Bike Out

There are two water stations on the run course and one on the bike course, using waxed cups. Recycling is brought back to Ground Zero.

One bummer: in past years, the park took our standard recyclables – cardboard, water bottles, and even waxed cups. But they no longer have a recycling dumpster, so we had to take care of all the waste ourselves. HPR brought a U-Haul trailer for it.

Post-event Waste Processing

The following day HPR (Jeff) sorted the bags of wrappers and transition bags, and re-checked the other recycling bags before dropoff. Plastics contaminated with salad dressing and other food waste were washed and then recycled.

Triceratops Tri 2019 - Me sorting the next day
The glam part of the job.

Compostables went to Tuthill Farms. Recycling went to Western Washtenaw Recycling Authority, and plastic bags to Recycle Ann Arbor. Chip bags and Gu wrappers, small plastics, cable ties, and other special recycling items were put into HPR’s TerraCycle Zero Waste Boxes.

What Went Well

The Zero Waste team was able to keep the tents fairly well sorted. However, some unsorted waste came from transition – see “Challenges” below. Using the “All Waste” bin for cleanup instead of the full stations may have contributed to that.

Triceratops Tri 2019 - Lisa sorts a tent
ZW team member Lisa keeps a station in order.

The volunteer food table is now using all compostable items, reducing the need to sort and eliminating oily waxed cups and bowls that went to landfill in previous years.


There was a separate team cleaning up the transition area. They did a good job but the collected waste was unsorted, requiring additional effort by HPR post-event.

We continue to get bags of unsorted and food-soiled fast food packaging (Jimmy Johns, Panera Bread, etc.) put into our tents.

Triceratops Tri 2019 - Plastic items contaminated with food waste

It’s unclear if it’s coming from athletes, families on the beach, or both. Our closing off the standard park trash bins in the race area may be contributing to the problem, as people using the beach pass through on the way to the parking lot.

Opportunities for Improvement

Take away the “All Waste” bin before checkout and give the cleanup crew labeled boxes or pails for sorting the waste they pick up.

Monitor the stations near the parking lot to see where the non-race waste is coming from.

More education may be helpful for the athletes, spectators, and people passing through the race area. Perhaps some signs between the beach and finish area, or on the tents asking for sorted waste, no oily plastics, no mixed bags, etc.

Another option could be not to cover the park trash bins and let people put their mixed waste in them. We could recover recyclable materials from them if we have time.

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