Charging Up Events to be Truly Clean & Green
After the Standard Charted Singapore Marathon 2017 (SCSM) awareness happened! Awareness that events can be responsible towards the waste generated in their events which can lead to cost savings.
After, small events of a couple of hundred, like the King of the Trails, went cup free; larger events like the Income Eco Run (about 5,000 runners) repurposed a lot of the waste generated and did a pretty good job of separating all the waste.
March 2018: The Public Hygiene Council reactivated the Green Ambassadors to get involved with the Sundown Marathon organisers, HiVelocity. Last year HiVelocity showed an eco-consciousness with plantable medals & tried to go cupless with their 5km event. This year, with less than 4 weeks to go, we would help HiVelocity & 25,000 runners onto Level 1 on their journey to designing a zero waste event. And HiVelocity would show they are an event company that would fearlessly go where other running events fear to tread.
Level 1: Understand the potential possibility that a large mass running event can be clean & can have a framework developed to become zero waste by simply adopting a circular economy vision.
A Circular Economy Vision
In simple terms a circular economy is ensuring waste from one company is a resource for another. By thinking in this manner, waste can be diverted from the landfill and events can define the type of waste they want to generate to ensure an onward purpose other than being dead waste (landfill waste).
In Singapore, general waste is burned and sent to a landfill island called Semakau which is rapidly filling up. Domestic recycling is low in Singapore due to much of the recycled waste being contaminated with food and hence good recyclables are sent to the incinerator and then to the landfill. In 2017, 7% of plastic generated in Singapore was recycled (source NEA)
For a list of what can be recycled in Singapore, see here: http://www.nea.gov.sg/docs/default-source/energy-waste/recycling/list-of-items-that-are-recyclable-and-not.xlsx
Sundown Marathon: How to Reduce Landfill Waste
Sundown will have an estimated 25,000 participants. This will generate enough waste to fill three to four x 40 cubic yard skips. A 40 cubic yard skip = 30.58m3 (Height = 2.6m; Length = 6.1m; Width = 2.4m)
In Singapore, people will place their rubbish in a bin, regardless of the colour.
With Banana Marshals, Trash Directors & Trash Patrol green ambassador volunteers, the aim was to educate the public that the bin colour matters. Out on the run, we just wanted runners to simply bin their rubbish to keep the route clean and safe for all (including our animals). Photo journal dedicated to the Green Ambassadors.
The “Bin It Right” green ambassadors did an excellent job to keep much recyclables separated from food waste and to also remind participants to bin their trash and hence the event village was left amazingly with only some small pockets of litter. Here’s an estimate of what was salvaged at the event village.
Of the estimated 900 kg clean recyclables:
- 10,000 Plastic bottles went to City Development Limited and to Playeum for art and play
- @25 large bags of cans were recycled (to be sold)
Spyder, the cleaning company, also set aside all the cardboard boxes for recycling. This meant that at least one 40 cubic yard skip of waste was repurposed.
Below is a representation of approximately 1/5 of the waste generated that was placed at the side of the full 40 cubic yard skip.
Was the Marathon Route Clean?
Both Sundown and the Green Ambassadors did a little pre-campaigning to encourage runners to put their waste in the bin. See previous post.
We also had Bin It Runners on the route and Bin It Fans (volunteers) to remind runners as they entered the Pens to bin their litter during their run.
Marathon #70 Tyre Run Report
4 days leading up to the event, I’d been coughing and phlegm was in the lungs. Everyone was warning me of the dangers of running with a chest infection. Exertion would have to be easy and thankfully Adrian (event organiser) let me start at the back of the 1/2 marathoners. This meant a one hour head start in front of the full marathoners, giving me 9 hours to complete the 42 km. Being a lady pulling a tyre, runners would hopefully also notice the “Bin It During Run” sign. I finished in 7 hrs 58 minutes at an easy pace. (Last long run was the 135 miler in January)
If a lady can drag a tyre, what is the effort to put your trash in the bin?
Overall, except for the mid-way hydration point, the course was kept relatively clear of cups, gels and bananas with litter at the side of the course after the hydration points from possibly 1,000 tossers amongst the 10,000 runners. At the half way hydration point, I had taken a banana and found a lack of bins after the hydration point. Sooo I held a banana skin + tyre + sign + my own bottle until I could put it in a bin which was about 1 km away.
There were definitely more people making an effort to put their litter in the bin. Certainly all the 5-8 hour runners that I saw, were putting their trash in the bin. Was it my sign? I theorised any litter tossed on the floor could only be from the 3-5 hour runners who felt their PB was more important than the environment.
In the East Coast Park, a squirrel has been observed eating a gel packet and in Machritchie Park a monkey was seen chewing on a plastic confectionery wrapper with perhaps chocolate melted inside.
It is important to note that the gel packets are hard for the cleaners to see and pick up especially when they are in the grass or, worst, in the drains.
The Green Ambassadors at the end of the Singapore Marathon 2017 picked up 3.5kg of runners’ litter along a 5km stretch of the route after the professional cleaners had cleaned the route. The litter consisted mostly of gel packets and was in the grass or drains up to 2 m either side of the running path.
The event village was relatively clean. Single use containers and cups were left on the tables near the food stalls and some bottles and cans were left at the baggage locations. The biggest shock and disappointment was the volunteers’ ladies toilet….
A Champion Arises
It is always a dream to have someone take over what you are doing. Li Seng will continue the work of the Green Ambassadors under the social enterprise Green Nudge, to nudge events towards zero waste and we will be giving him as much support as possible.
Thank you to:
- WasteMaster for their generous support throughout the event
- Syntech Chemicals for their BYOB gift vouchers
- Green Nudge for their support with high vis vests and tongs
- HiVelocity for their enthusiastic support & creating the signs used around the event village
- Public Hygiene Council for their support
- Wanderlust for keeping the media focus on what we were trying to achieve
- Spyder for their collaboration to help organise the waste
- Special thanks to Chun Yeow and Li Seng for being my right and left hand collaborators & to MJ Mohammed for all the photo journalling the event.