Last year the organisers of the Summer Plym Trail Marathon announced they would move towards a cupless event in 2019. Of course I had to follow that up and do the two days of their January edition Winter Plym Trail Marathon. Yes two marathons in two days repeating on a route that has about 13 miles of uphill and 13 miles downhill. Last year I completed day 1 in 7:40 and day 2 in 7:43 with Freeus-Blod.
Temp was about 4 degs Celcius and the long sleeved shirt and hat were soon taken off after the first mile. Yes notice the gear worn is Arrowhead 135. It is my toughest & favourite event, and will be kicking off this weekend in International Falls, North Minnesota. However, I will be here (where ever that is) doing my tax and writing to events to go green, plus allow participants to grow up and be more responsible. Events can do so much more if they stop babying participants and allow participants to be part of the eliminating waste solution by taking on some of the responsibility such as BYOR (Bring Your Own Resuable) bottle/cup/hydration device. After all the participants are supposed to be adults…..just saying….
Want to thank the Arrowhead 135 organisers who have reduced the amount of disposable throw aways in their event year on year. The pre-event dinner now uses real plates and cutlery & the event goody bags are now presented in a reusable souvenir bag.
About the Event
Firstly with regards to the organisation and attention to detail: Davy and Lesley do a super job of ensuring that all participants are looked after. Every water station had plenty of liquid & snack food. The check point at the bottom of the hill was superbly looked after by a volunteer who also made hot cross buns filled with cheese and delicious homemade flapjacks that came in a tin. Less waste and better calories. AND it is held in a beautiful part of the UK with absolutely gorgeous scenery….Dartmoor and the occasional wild pony.
Davy and Lesley are great at geeing up the participants and make each one feel special….especially Ruth who completed her 600th marathon, and Roger who completed his 100th to become a proud 100 marathon club member. I’m getting there. Also great to have competition with Superman who was forced to keep his feet on the ground and a partially blind runner, Ben, who completed his first marathon unaided….and yes he lapped me!
Anyhoo am writing the next piece below as a number of events have told me they are now using paper cups / compostable cups.
Is Compostable Any Good?
Davy warned me prior to coming that they purchased more expensive compostable paper cups as they were concerned that runners would not remember to BYOR cup/hydration device. And they were right. It was estimated about 30% of participants had not brought their own reusable drinking vessel. As we would pass a check point 4 times, the mid-check point proactively tried to encourage the participants to reuse their cups by numbering their cups using their bib number and filling their cups with their preferred drink the next time they passed. Certainly for events where participants have to complete laps, can reduce the rubbish generated by providing reusable cups, like Saturn Running, have got this part down to a fine art.
Davey and Lesley’s hearts are in the right place and they want to do the right thing and like them, I used to think that compostables could be a solution and then I found out…..
Compostable items often cannot be home composted and will need an industrial composter for the right conditions to decompose the items. I have “compostable cups” still in my own home composter that is still whole after 3 years. It was not rotting like normal plant matter. Also if man-made compostable items are placed in a landfill, the chances of them rotting are reduced and are more likely to be preserved Ref: the BBC documentary “The Secret Life of a landfill” pulled out a 30 year old newspaper that would normally rot in 2-6 weeks in mint condition from a landfill.
Paper items often require more resources (such as water and energy) than their plastic alternative and can generate more greenhouse gases. Below is a table from a document by Hyder Consulting an Australian company that conducted a study on behalf of the Australian government on a comparison of plastic bags against the alternatives.
For more narratives regarding the above, see the Australian government’s findings: https://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/documents/explore/ResearchPublications/ResearchBriefs/2010/RBR201028.pdf
Also 2011 article by the Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/shortcuts/2011/dec/20/paper-plastic-bags-which-best and how stuff works: https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/paper-plastic1.htm
Here is more science about the right conditions for the right materials and why compostables are not a solution for events with good waste management: https://phys.org/news/2018-08-compostable-plastics-environment.html
Finally the EU (which currently includes the UK) is steam rolling ahead with building incinerators around the countries to reduce landfill waste. Hence the UK is also on track to build more incinerators to allow the continuation of our disposable society. The area where this marathon is sited (Plymouth/Devon) has a “Waste to Energy” incinerator. Hence in this case where the event is small and participants have so far shown responsibility with regards to putting their waste cups in the bin, it would be “greener” to use plastic cups over paper cups. Of course it would be even greener if participants would raise their game further and brought their own reusable device to drink from.
Overall waste wise, this event is pretty good as they do use reusable water dispensers and the snacks are put into reusable containers. So now the only disposable items to deal with are the disposable cups and goody bag…… and I would happily give them 2 green stars – one for reduction in waste water & the other for the amount of waste generated. This year am going to hand out different green leaves for the way events have handled & reduced: Energy, Water, Food, General Rubbish, Sponsors/Vendors, and special Activities they have hosted to raise environmental awareness amongst their participants.
The only litter found on the course were from those sucky gel manufacturers who could do a better job by using home compostable materials if they are going to persist with their sucky poor design (they could use a screw cap). Personally I despise their diabetes sugar laced contents….can you tell, I am not a fan? They should be charged because lots of these are certainly not cleaned up in events as they are difficult to spot and stick to the ground…..and has been found in the stomachs of deer and cows where events have been through. I do need to write a post about these evil gels.
In summary, if organisers are going to use a disposable material and the council that take’s care of the waste has an incinerator, then go ahead use disposable plastic – as long as you can guarantee there will be no litter from those items. Anyhow I hope this event is on its way to being cupless so I can it award it a green leaf for minimal event waste. The first participant gets the same medal as the last participant so let’s see all us participants get responsible PBs in this event and beyond. Everyone can certainly BYOR bottle/cup/hydration device…do it for the environment and everyone around you.
Oh and before I forget, I smashed my times at this event. This year my times were 7:06 for day 1 and 7:23 for day 2 with Freeus-Blod…..Yes and I carried my own reusable refillable bottle!
Thank you to the 2 passerbys who stuffed £5 notes into my hand. £10 has now gone to EarthWatch.