Morning, Friday, May 10. It was cool in Ann Arbor. While getting ready for the Hightail to Ale 5K that evening, I received a text from the event director regarding the recycling rolloff I’d ordered:
“Hey Jeff, no dumpster on site”
So in a few hours we’d be serving several thousand runners food and beer, and we had nowhere to put hundreds of pounds of recyclables. It was time to implement my carefully thought-out contingency plan. Or scramble like hell. Or panic.
Which of the above did I choose? And how did it turn out? All is revealed below!
While I was holding down a Zero Waste station last weekend, someone approached me holding a small bag of dog poop and looking confused. “I can’t find a trash bin anywhere,” he told me.
I assured him that was the idea.
For this was Trail Marathon Weekend, which has been Zero Waste since 2016, and we don’t generate enough trash to need a bin. The bag went into a 5-gallon pail, which comfortably held all the landfill waste from the entire two-day event. And this year we went cupless, too! How did that go? Read on!
What a difference a year makes! From the freezing rain in 2018 to a cool, sunny day in 2019, conditions were much improved for both the runners and the people working the race.
The Zero Waste team also benefited from the great weather and more experienced help. While last year the sorting had to be cut short and a lot of bags were sent to trash, this year we were able to process all the waste and drop the landfill portion to below ten pounds! Read on to see how we did it, and the few challenges we faced.
It was a cold, wet morning in Ann Arbor, but over a thousand brave souls turned up to run a 5K (and drink beer), and some equally brave kids ran a 1K (and ate ice cream). The Zero Waste team had to do its best to stay reasonably dry and warm while making sure the boxes, bottles, cups, and food waste ended up where they belonged.
Did we keep the race “green” in keeping with St. Paddy’s Day tradition? Sure’n we did! Read on for details, ladies and laddies!
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Sustainability Report: Shamrocks & Shenanigans 2019
Date: March 10, 2019
Event company: RF Events, Ann Arbor MI
Location: Downtown Ann Arbor, MI
# Attendees: 1,200 runners, with about 100 spectators and staff
Zero Waste Team members: 5
Landfill waste consisted mostly of the ice cream cup tops (waxed paper), some plastic material too contaminated to recycle, and tape. Special recyclables (for TerraCycle) included disposable gloves, discarded race bibs, hand warmers, and costumes.
Shamrocks & Shenanigans is a St. Patrick’s Day-themed race in downtown Ann Arbor. The main event is a 5K, and a 1K kids race is also offered. The event ends in the parking lot of an Irish pub, with a beer garden set up for the thirsty finishers. For the younger set, there was orange juice and ice cream.
Sources of race waste include finish line water bottles and food, cardboard from the boxes of medals and pint glasses, and plastic wrappings from the finisher medals. Beer garden waste is managed by the pub.
Zero Waste Plan
Due to windy and wet conditions, we used rubber “Slim Jim” bins instead of Zero Hero tents. We set up three stations in the parking lot; at the end of the food table, at the Ground Zero pavilion (in the parking lot near the finish line), and near the vendor tents. The food table received a pail for disposable gloves and other waste that could not recycled or composted. Plastic wrap from the medals was collected prior to race start.
Post-race food was minimal – bananas, bagels, and ice cream cups (which, rather surprisingly, got used up).
We did not set up stations or cover City trash bins in the starting area at Main and Liberty, as not much waste is generated by the runners there. Instead, two Zero Waste team members swept the starting line area, picking up waste found in the street and sidewalks. (Most of what we collected was likely not from the runners, but it was recoverable.)
We received a six-yard recycle dumpster and two 96-gallon compost carts from the City. We covered the carts to avoid having them treated as general trash cans.
Post-Event Waste Processing
The cardboard and bags of non-cup recyclables were put in the recycle dumpster. HPR took the bags of cups, plastic bags/wrap, and special materials for proper disposal. Cups went to WWRA, bags to Recycle Ann Arbor, and special materials to the TerraCycle Zero Waste Boxes.
About 50 Styrofoam ice cream cups were recovered. Jeff rinsed them and took them to Recycle Ann Arbor. The accompanying plastic spoons were put in a TerraCycle box.
What Went Well
Using the Slim Jims avoided the trouble of wet tents and keeping them anchored. And setting up a pavilion at Ground Zero proved valuable in helping keep the team drier, if not warmer.
The Zero Waste team volunteers were terrific, gamely staffing the stations in the poor weather and making takedown smooth and fast. Thanks, all!
This year pint glasses were an option item purchased separately ahead of time, rather than all runners receiving them as a finisher award. This cut down the waste cardboard significantly.
The sticky ice cream cups were a nuisance, but we minimized the problem by having people put them and the spoons in the blue pails rather than the recycle bins. At race end all pails were put into a single bag for final sorting later.
Opportunities for Improvement
A more environmentally friendly solution for the ice cream would be nice, as well as using compostable spoons rather than plastic.
The six-yard recycling dumpster was more than enough for our needs. Also, we only had a single bag of compostables. We can make adjustments next year, and possibly put everything in just a couple of recycling carts and a single compost cart.
This year’s Super 5K had decent weather and a good turnout, with football regalia all about, and a visit by the Detroit Lions mascot. The Zero Waste effort scored big overall, but had several annoying fumbles by the runners. I think we had more pint glasses broken than points scored in the Super Bowl!
Welcome to the Bigfoot Snowshoe race, where the temperature – and the trash – were both close to zero this year!
You know a Zero Waste effort is going well when you have less than one pound of trash but still want to do better. And then we found a way to reduce it to nearly nothing! Read on to find out how, and see the end of this report for a bonus.
It was Hustle time in downtown Dexter, with a beautiful sunny afternoon highlighting the colorful decorations and the costumes of runners. But it was cold, which was a challenge for those working the race instead of running it.
Challenges for the Zero Waste team include setting up in the cold, takedown in the dark and cold, and waste that piles up quickly from the stations and the food and registration tents, Still, in 2017 we ended up with just five pounds of landfill. How did we do this year? See below!
What’s one way to really appreciate a hot Thanksgiving Day dinner with family and friends? Run a cold 5K in the morning!
This Thanksgiving Day 3,400 runners toed the line in downtown Ann Arbor for a turkey trot and warmed up with cookies, coffee, and hot chocolate afterward. So despite hand and feet-numbing cold, the Zero Waste team had to be on the job. Last year we kept the total landfill trash under three pounds and achieved 99 percent diversion Could we repeat it? Find out below!