A lady had stopped along the road in my street to talk on her phone. As she did so, she rolled down her window and smoked a cigarette, doing that “typical smokers’ thing” to flick ash out her window and then flick her cigarette butt out the window.
A couple walked by, would have seen what she did and took no notice of the cigarette butt that was now burning on the floor releasing its toxic chemicals. I also happened to have witnessed the event, picked up the cigarette butt and knocked on her window. She wound down her window to allow me to return her “droppings”:
“Excuse me, I believe this is yours. Please don’t litter here. Learn to put it in the bin.”
She looked at me a little embarrassed, apologised and continued to smoke the cigarette butt I had just returned to her. I can only imagine she was waiting for me to continue walking by so that she could flick it back outside. But ahhh that glimmer of guilt the second time round…..
Participants in a running event are like the smoker, acting as if it is normal to drop stuff on the floor, accepting other runners dropping rubbish on the floor. New event participants copy the same thing, even though they didn’t do this in training!
Many marathons are a complete trash festival where we see the ugly sight of plastic bottles, cups, gel packets, bananas, oranges all dropped on the floor.
Most participants expect someone to clean it up for them! So what is the issue?
Health and Safety and the Environment
It is surprising this behaviour has been allowed to happen for so long, when places like the UK have banned children playing games that could hurt themselves (like catch, tag, british bulldogs, conkers).
I’ve watched participants slip/skid on a bottle/cup/banana skin that has been dropped right in front of them.
Additionally there is “run away” trash. Runners’ trash that has been casually tossed into a bush or into a drain, and if it is raining or windy, the trash is washed into a water way that is close by. It is always unfortunate to see the Singapore river has had to participate as a large dumpster when outdoor events like the Singapore marathon has occurred.
…And the Rubbish Has to Go Somewhere
Like in many places, in Singapore, the marathon trash is a mixture of organic and inorganic stuff and will simply go to landfill.
And Now The Change – Battle Hat On!
The Ironman organisation have recently taken over running the Standard Charted Singapore Marathon, and have agreed a change needs to happen with regards to handling trash. They have provided us an opportunity, to see if we (grassroot communities) can encourage responsible runners in the Singapore Marathon. This is an event that will have about 60,000 runners participating in the 10km, 21km and 42km events.
We will subtly and proactively encourage and educate runners to put their trash in a bin to reduce the run away trash that is occurring with:
a) Trash Evangelist amongst the runners in all the events. They will be directing runners to put their trash in the bin and they will be taking photographs of those that do and those that simply drop it on the floor.
There will also be participants wearing a Bin It logo on their running tops to remind runners to bin their trash and additionally will be bringing their own bottle to show you can “have your bottle and run a good time”.
If you want to see a clean mass event, please print or draw the Bin It logo, put in a clear bag (like the one your event t-shirt came in) and pin to the back of your shirt.
The marathon organisers have also stated they will be putting out Bin It signs to remind participants.
b) Trash Directors who will be directing runners and spectators at the finish point to separate trash in specific receptacles that the organisers will provide.
Note: There will be MND (Ministry of National Development) volunteers who will also be encouraging runners to “Bin It”
By separating the trash we will be able to repurpose some of that trash. This means some of the plastic bottles can be recycled as they will be separated and the banana skins will be collected and redistributed to community gardens for compost.
So in addition to the end point trash directors we have volunteers who will be Banana Marshals. These volunteers will be at the banana check points along the ECP and separate the banana skins from the bottles from the cups. Perhaps they might play games with the runners to see if they can run and target stuff into the banana bins!
Checking For Run Away Trash
At the same time we will assume there will still be “running tossers” who have not seen the Bin It signs, tossing their trash in any direction. After the organisers’ clean up crew have been through (Veolia), we will be doing a community clean up along a 10km section of the marathon route to see if the “same old run-away runners’ trash” will be there. They will be checking the bushes, sand, and drains especially for the bothersome gel tabs.
This means the organisers can develop an action plan in future years to ensure we “Leave No Trace”
We will close the volunteer form on the 16th November 2017.
Am also pleased to announce we have a partnership with Better Trails. This is a company dedicated to keeping the trails in Singapore in their natural state and organise “Clean Ups” of the natural areas around Singapore.