Battle of Waterloo 2019 Sustainability Report

Quick, what has ten legs and zero waste?

The Battle of Waterloo! A ten-stage triathlon that works over the athletes but saves the planet.

This year’s battle was a hot, humid, buggy sufferfest throughout the day – for the athletes. For the Green Team, it was a lot of standing around, until everything hit at the end. How’d we make out? Read on!

Sustainability Report: Battle of Waterloo
Date: July 21, 2019
Event company: Epic Races, Ann Arbor MI
Location: Portage Lake recreation area, Grass Lake MI
# Attendees: 125 runners + staff and spectators
Zero Waste Team volunteers: 4

Results: 96.3 percent landfill diversion

Compostables: 26.7 lbs.     Recyclables: 75.5 lbs.     Landfill: 3.9 lbs.

Landfill waste consisted mainly of foil contaminated with melted cheese, ice cream wrappers, and laminated backings of race tags.

Race Overview

The Battle of Waterloo is more than your average triathlon. There are three swims, two bike segments, and five runs, for a total of ten stages. And in between the bike segments (#2 and #9), you need to carry your gear with you, even while swimming. And just to top things off, the final run segment featured a gauntlet of deer flies.

Battle of Waterloo 2019 - Shirt explaining stages - cropped.jpg

If you’re not feeling quite up to the entire distance (about 42 miles total), you can choose to do “Half the Battle” and only complete six stages.

The race has a small but dedicated following, and it’s only held every two years. This would be the first BoW under the Epic Zero Waste program.

Zero Waste Plan

With rain threatening, we set up Ground Zero under the registration/food tent, and used rubber “Slim Jims” at the waste stations instead of tents and cardboard bins.

Stations consisted of bins for recycling, compost, and wrappers, with a pail for trash. We set up a station on either end of the main tent. The food area received a box for used disposable gloves, and the finish area collected plastic bags and wrap from medals, water bottle cases, and ice bags.

Transition got a station next to the water/Gatorade table at its entrance. Signs to “please clean up your area at checkout” were posted around the inside perimeter.

The food tables served hot egg and cheese burritos, grilled cheese sandwiches, and tomato soup, as well as standard fare of fruit, cookies, ice cream bars, and bags of chips. The Catered Coffee truck took care of caffeine needs.

Post-Event Processing

Compostables went to WeCare Denali in Ann Arbor. Standard recycling and waxed cups were taken to a Western Washtenaw Recycling dropoff station. Plastic bags went to Recycle Ann Arbor.

Post-race sorting was minimal, consisting mainly of separating out the special recyclables (used disposable gloves, party supplies, swim caps, etc.) into their respective TerraCycle zero waste boxes.

What Went Well

There was very little litter in the finish area and in transition.

We had a good sized Green Team for the event, made up of CMS Energy interns. They pitched in and got all the work done they could.

Battle of Waterloo 2019 - Green Team collecting data
Zach and Taylor weigh and record the recyclables.


Due to the nature of the event, once the races started there was little for the Green Team to do for several hours. We did get a head start on data collection and station takedown. But they had to leave at 2:00, and shortly afterward, all the aid station bags came in! So I had to spend some solo time sorting through the bags, removing Gu wrappers and other contaminants from the cups. Just bad timing.

Battle of Waterloo 2019 - Aid station waste
Okay, time to sort – hey, where did everybody go?

Opportunities for Improvement

Change the Green Team shift times to the afternoon. Setup can be done by the team captain.

The landfill waste could be cut to practically nothing by:

  • Switching from foil to a compostable material to wrap the burritos, But finding a suitable foil replacement has not proved easy.
  • Changing ice cream bars to ones that are not individually wrapped, or that use compostable wrappers. There are some options to consider for future events.

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