A Pleasant Surprise! 2019 T-Rex Triathlon Sustainability Report

What do you do when you carefully plan Zero Waste for an event – and everything works out according to plan? Shake your head in disbelief, thank the good Lord, and go home on time!

Sustainability Report: T-Rex Triathlon 2019
Date: August 21, 2019
Event company: RF Events, Ann Arbor MI
Location: Island Lake Park, Brighton MI
# Attendees: 450 triathletes, plus staff and spectators
Zero Waste Team size: 3

Results: 95.3 percent landfill diversion
Compostables: 18.8 lbs.     Recyclables: 114.4 lbs.     Landfill: 6.4 lbs.

Pie and trend charts - T-Rex Tri 2019
Landfill trash consisted mainly of tape, fast food packaging, dirty plastics, and some wrappers.

Race Overview

The T-Rex is the third and final of the RF Events summer series of sprint triathlons. 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. In the finish area athletes get sandwiches and bags of chips and listen to live music. A bicycle shop puts up a tent for in-race repairs, and massages are available too.

T-Rex Tri 2019 - Athletes finishing

The race begins at 6:00 p.m. This one gets dark by 9:00, so awards and takedown are done earlier than at the other two.

Zero Waste Plan

The Ground Zero sorting station is usually set up in front of the park’s trash boxes near registration. This time we placed it across the path closer to the volunteer table and next to the tent used for exiting athletes. This gives the takedown team more space to load the equipment truck, and gives us more space for final sort.

T-Rex Tri 2019 - New location for Ground Zero

Because it gets dark so soon, I reduced the waste stations in the finish area from three to two, and adjusted their locations to better serve the athletes instead of beachgoers. We set up the stations for Compost / Recycle / Landfill, with pails for Gu wrappers. Snack bag wrappers would be sorted out of the Landfill bags if time permitted.

As an experiment I changed the tent signage to be larger and simpler, using clipped samples instead of printed words for examples.

T-Rex Tri 2019 - Simplified station signs.jpg

The finish area got a bag for water bottle case wrap and ice bags, and a bag along the fence for water bottles. The food tables got a box for disposable gloves.

In transition we put one station on either side of Bike in/Out (also check in and out), and one “All Waste” bin at Run Out. We posted signs inside asking the athletes to please pick up their areas at checkout.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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. In an attempt to reduce final sort time, we asked the aid station staff to keep their bags sorted and provided a printed guide for each aid station captain.

Finish area food was the standard sandwiches on pita bread (served on compostable deli sheets), bags of chips, and brownie bites. Volunteers had pasta served in compostable bowls.

Post-event Waste Processing

Post-event sorting was minimal – just one bag of mixed waste from the transition cleanup crew, and the special recyclables (see below) for TerraCycle.

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, disposable gloves, discarded race bibs, and other special recycling items were put into HPR’s TerraCycle Zero Waste Boxes.

What Went Well

The strategies for quick takedown appear to have worked well. We had no problems with one fewer tent in the finish area, and everything was packed up before it got dark. Final sort and data collection required headlamps, but it went quickly.

The aid station bags were well sorted, with just a quick final sort needed.

Leaving a single bag for the transition area cleanup crew also worked well, as they could use that bag while we shut down and took away the full stations earlier than usual.

The two experienced volunteers (Lisa and Robin) kept the stations in order and helped the athletes put their waste in the correct places. They also quickly and efficiently performed final sort and data collection.

T-Rex Tri 2019 - Lisa helping athletes at first tent in finish areaT-Rex Tri 2019 - Robin in transition area

The finish line crew now actively helps out by collecting the plastic wrap, and breaking down the cardboard from the boxes of medals.


None to speak of! The “gnomes” that plagued the Pterodactyl Tri in July were nowhere to be found.

Opportunities for Improvement

(These recommendations apply to the entire series.)

Keep the new location for Ground Zero. Consider two tents in the finish area for all three events instead of three.

Continue testing the updated tent signs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: