After a year at Briarwood Mall, this year’s July 4 Firecracker 5K returned to Fourth and Liberty (!) in downtown Ann Arbor. Also back, per tradition, was the hot dog division (eat four hot dogs in 76 seconds, then run the 5K), and a Twinkie division, too. Fortunately, there were no “cleanup on Liberty Street!” events, and the Zero Waste team took care of everything else waste-related.

Featuring the mighty Larry O’ (second from left), in his usual role as kids run leader, followed by “eat and run” in the hot dog suit. A braver man than I! Also note the reusable aluminum cups the athletes used to dunk the dogs.

We set up the main Zero Waste station on the sidewalk near the start/finish line and the food. And for City trash cans in the race area, always problematic, we adopted an innovation from the Dexter-Ann Arbor Run in June. Instead of moving the trash cans, or covering them and hoping for the best, we put All Waste boxes on top, and switched them out when they got full. Worked like a charm!

Food was hot dogs, bomb pops, and bananas. Bearclaw Coffee had a truck nearby, using all compostable materials. Bomb pop wrappers went to TerraCycle, and sticks were composted. Recyclables were the usual suspects – water bottles, cardboard, paper, and plastic wrap from medals and water bottle cases.

Helping me at the station was regular staffer Debbie, and one volunteer (thanks, Charlie). In another innovation, we switched from using disposable gloves to washable, reusable ones, a suggestion from my wife. (Family support is the best.)

Debbie and Charlie work the station while a runner peruses the “Free Stuff” box.

Recyclables were down a bit from last year, while compost went up, due in part to using compostable cups at the water stop. Overall waste, adjusted for attendance, has remained relatively flat the last four years, suggesting this event is running pretty optimally in its current configuration. And at under 70 lbs. total and just a few ounces of landfill, there’s not much to complain about, for sure!