A Record “Breaking” Event: Super 5K 2020 Sustainability Report

The Super 5K course was a little slick at start time, but we had a good turnout with lots of colorful costumes, and a solid Zero Waste effort. If only we could get the runners to stop fumbling their finisher glasses!

Sustainability Report: Super 5K
Date: February 2, 2020
Event company: RF Events, Ann Arbor MI
Location: Novi High School, Novi MI
# Attendees: 1,400 runners, with about 100 spectators and staff
Zero Waste Team members: 6

Results:  94.7 percent landfill diversion

Compostables: 193 lbs.     Recyclables: 88.9 lbs.     Landfill: Broken glass, 22.7 lbs.
Other landfill: 3.1 lbs.

The spike in composting reflects a large number of leftover hot dogs, as the runners were not quite as hungry as anticipated. The amount of broken glass is also, unfortunately, a record.

Race Overview

The Super 5K starts and finishes at Novi High School on Super Bowl Sunday. After the run, hot dogs, bananas, chips, and cookies were served in the cafeteria. (No meatballs this year.) There are two “rush periods” for the Zero Waste team: just before the 8:30 a.m. start, and again from 9:15 to 10:30, when the runners finish and get their food.

Zero Waste Plan

We set up Zero Hero Advocates in the main hall – one near the front entrance, one at the cafeteria entrance, and one outside the cafeteria exit (adding another after race start). Waste streams were Compost / Recycle / Snack Bags, with pails for landfill. Later we added a pail for liquids at two stations.

A station outside the cafeteria exit. There’s another on the opposite side of the pillar.

Inside the cafeteria we put out bins for the food prep team (Compost / Recycling / Plastic bags) which we moved to the Ground Zero table when runners began entering. We also added a waste station after the food tables on the way out.

We gave the food prep table a box for disposable gloves, and also put out a box for recycling race bibs, as we got a good response to that at the Bigfoot Snowshoe race.

The food prep team busy at work, sorting out the “bad buns” for composting.

We covered the two school trash cans outside the main entrance. We left the ones outside the back exit alone, as they did not appear to be heavily used.

Post-Event Waste Processing

Novi High School no longer recycles (bummer!) so HPR took the standard recyclables to Western Washtenaw Recycling. Fortunately, it all fit into the 5×8 U-Haul trailer. Compostables (food waste and hot dog boats) were taken to WeCare in Ann Arbor.

The “glam” part of the job: unloading the recycling at WWRA.

Special recycling included plastic bags & wrap (to be taken to Recycle Ann Arbor), and items for TerraCycle including disposable gloves, party decorations, Tim Horton’s coffee box liners, and 31 race bibs.

A sampling of the items we can recycle through TerraCycle.

The broken pint glasses are non-recyclable, so they had to be landfilled.

What Went Well

The Zero Waste team was terrific, keeping the stations in good order and helping runners with where to stash their trash. Takedown was quick and efficient. Thanks to Mike, Kim, Joe, James, and everyone else who pitched in!

Thanks also to the finish line staff and registration team, who broke down their cardboard boxes and stacked them neatly, so we could quickly weigh and load them at the end.


The school put out a couple of trash cans in the middle of the main area to collect drips from roof leaks. Despite labeling them as “NOT TRASH” they were, of course, used for cups and water bottles prior to race start. We removed them. One additional trash can somehow escaped detection and was filled with mixed waste, which had to be sorted out.


Yet again we had a number of finisher pint glasses dropped and broken by the runners, most inside the school, but also a few outside. This year appears to be a record.

Opportunities for Improvement

Consider moving the pre-start water table closer to one of the Zero Waste stations (or vice versa).

Published by RunBikeThrow

By day, I'm a mild-mannered Director of Training at a software company in Ann Arbor, MI. By night - I sleep, mostly. In between, I do other things I feel the need to write about. Check out fitnessat50.net to view my thoughts on running, cycling, Aikido, and other things that keep me going.

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