Ann Arbor Triathlon Sustainability Report

So this dragonfly isn’t related to the race’s Zero Waste effort. But isn’t it gorgeous?

Sustainability Report: Ann Arbor Triathlon
Date: August 3, 2019
Event company: Epic Races, Ann Arbor MI
Location: Halfmoon Lake, Pinckney MI
# Attendees: 400 runners
Zero Waste Team size: 3 (Captain: Janette Lutz)

Results: 94.7 percent landfill diversion
Compostables: 53.2 lbs.     Recyclables: 78.3 lbs.     Landfill: 7.4 lbs.

Pie and trend charts - Ann Arbor Triathlon 2019
Main contributors to landfill trash were foil contaminated with cheese, ice cream wrappers, and soiled plastic wrap.

Race Overview

The Ann Arbor Triathlon actually has a variety of race options. The main event is a sprint triathlon, but mini-sprint, aquabike, and duathlon are also offered.

All races are completed and the area is cleaned up by early afternoon.

Zero Waste Plan

Zero Waste stations (compost, recycle, trash) were set up near registration and in the bike transition area.

Ann Arbor Triathlon 2019 - Station by finish area

Ann Arbor Triathlon 2019 - Zero Waste station by transition
Pay no attention to the Trash labels. There is signage on the other side facing the athletes.

Ann Arbor Triathlon 2019 - Zero Waste station

Food included egg and cheese burritos (assembled on-site), bananas, ice cream bars, chips, and candy. Water bottles were handed out at the finish line. There were no food vendors or beer area at this event.

What Went Well

The footprint for the race was compact so four recycling stations were set up. Two volunteers monitored two of four stations while staff split monitoring time between two stations. The volunteers also handled the material weighing at the central recycling station. Sorting compliance was good and the athletes seemed happy to put the materials in the right container. One sweep of the transition area yielded just a small amount of recyclable waste.


Most of the foil and ice cream wrappers were too contaminated to recycle. Wrappers that could be saved for recycling had to be pulled out by hand.

It was difficult to determine whether the foil used to wrap the burritos was contaminated with food, as many athletes crumpled it up. We initially sorted all foil separately, but we may have had too many choices. Using the tents may have helped in this case.

Also, a few athletes commented that the pictures on the signs did not match the actual products at the race.

Opportunities for Improvement

Better customize the bin signage to a race.

Mark the bins better to distinguish between wrappers we can save and those we have to send to landfill.

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