Epic Races kicks off their 2018 bike season and second year of their Zero Waste program. How “clean and green” could we make a race notorious for getting people dirty? Read on to find out!
Runners love their coffee, and during races they need water and other hydration drinks. The most popular method for delivering the drinks continues to be paper cups. And why not? They’re inexpensive, lightweight, and do their job well. And they’re often provided free to races by sponsors such as Absopure.
But the standard cup is lined with polyethylene (PE) – a plastic – to seal the seams and waterproof the paper. The lining makes the cup difficult to recycle. At paper mills that aren’t set up to screen out PE, it can gum up the machinery. Entire bales of paper containing cups could be rejected and end up in a landfill or incinerator. And that’s a shame, because the paper itself is high-quality pulp that is very useful when recycled.
From the Totally Unexpected News desk: I’ve won an award!
The Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors (AAABoR) has selected HPR to receive its Eunice L. Burns Environmental Awareness Award for 2018.
The award recognizes HPR for developing Zero Waste programs for local running events such as the Ann Arbor Marathon and the Dexter and Ann Arbor Turkey Trots. In 2017 HPR helped 30 events recycle and compost over 15,000 pounds (nearly eight tons) of event waste that would otherwise have gone to a landfill.
The award will be presented at the AAABoR General Membership Meeting in January. I’ll provide details after the date is confirmed, and again after the ceremony.
More information about the award, and its past recipients, can be found on the award’s web page here.
Many thanks to Mary at Epic Races for nominating HPR and to AAABoR for selecting me!
Good news from the Zero Waste Running department: one more thing that has been going to the landfill at our events turns out to be recyclable!
I’m talking about a particular item familiar to people who run races of all distances. (See the featured photo if you need a hint.) Read on to find out how to recycle them!
Some really good things have been happening recently with plastic recycling. And a few of them relate directly to the plastic we consume and discard at running events.
Even at the Zero Waste events I work at and/or run in, plastic remains highly used, from water bottles and jugs to coffee and beer cups, disposable plates and tableware, and more. The good news is that most of it is highly recyclable. But some of it is not accepted by recyclers, and, I’m sad to say, too much of it ends up in landfills, or worse, in sewers or waterways where it wends its way to the oceans, as part of the estimated eight million metric tons added each year.
So I’m pleased to relate some examples of how some of this plastic waste is either being recovered, or otherwise diverted into productive reuse. It’s a start – and YOU can help!
Look, I get it. I’ve run plenty of wet, sloppy trail races. You expect a mess, so you bring along an old pair of shoes you intend to “retire” immediately after the race. You cross the finish line, change into clean and dry clothes, have a celebratory banana and beer, and then into the trash go the shoes, and your socks too, and maybe even your shirt.
But once they go into the trash, the opportunity to reuse them or donate them to a worthy cause is likely lost forever. Unless the event has a Zero Waste team, and they have time after sorting food waste and recyclables to search though the trash, and they feel so inclined to retrieve the dirty, soaked clothes.
“You mean you really want them?” I heard you asking. Well, actually, yes.
Here’s some friendly, and I hope useful, advice to any runners reading this who wonder how clothes that are wet, muddy, torn, or otherwise rendered undesirable can be salvaged and sent to a better place than a landfill.
When I crossed the finish line of my first marathon back in 2011, I was handed a thin, light foil blanket. A runner’s body temperature begins to drop rapidly after stopping, and this was to retain some body heat until things stabilized.
It was over eighty degrees and sunny that day, so there was no danger of hypothermia. Still, I took the blanket as a first-marathon souvenir. But last month’s local marathon was wet and chilly, so the runners appreciated them, although they created a disposal issue.
The blankets are made of Mylar, plastic vapor-coated with aluminum. Both materials are recyclable by themselves, but together they are not. And when people started discarding them en masse, the volume quickly overloaded the receptacle. The Zero Waste team decided to collect them in the chance we could keep them out of the landfill.
We ended up with several large bags stuffed with Mylar blankets. What could be done? After some research we identified one bad option, one good (but costly) option, and one that didn’t help for this year but might for future events. Which one did we choose? Read on to find out!
Hooray for runners! Not only are they cool people, they care about the environment. Every runner I know supports Zero Waste, and we’ve received many, many thank-yous and compliments from race participants.
And yet they do some things that make a Zero Waste effort more difficult. I know it’s not intentional; it’s more a lack of understanding how labor-intensive the process is.
A runner’s involvement with trash ends when it’s put in the bin or tent, but the Zero Waste team has to ensure it all goes in the right place. Final sort consumes a lot of time just when we’re trying to pack up and leave. Every saved minute helps!
Here are a few things all runners can do to help an event’s sustainability team. Trust me, we’ll love you all the more for doing them!
Ah, paper cups. You see them at every running event, being handed out at aid stations to perspiring runners, who slug down the contents and then toss them down, sometimes in a waste bin, but often just in the road, or wherever.
What happens to them afterward? Your average runner has no idea. Trash collection is someone else’s problem – they’re here to run! But if you’re part of the event staff, and you want to do right by the environment, what options do you have? Keep reading …