How to green marathons and other athletic events

Morgan on the run at Comrades 14March < and April are traditionally two very busy months for the Plastics|SA clean-up crew. Led by Plastics|SA’s Sustainability Manager, John Kieser, a team of 205 “cleaners” who are employed from local townships were trained to quickly and effectively pick up all litter that is left behind by athletes and spectators who attended three of Cape Town’s biggest events these past few weeks, namely The Cape Argus Cycle race, the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon and the SA Navy Festival. This project is an excellent example of greening marathons and other athletic events.

“The active and visible involvement of the Plastics|SA clean-up team and the PETCO branded bins and truck at these annual events are most certainly helping to create an awareness of the mountains of litter generated at big events such as these,” Kieser said. The City of Cape Town played a major role in boosting their clean-up efforts, by ensuring that the routes for this year’s cycling and marathon races, were thoroughly cleaned prior to the race days, using a collection of various technology driven machinery.

DSC_0662This year’s Old Mutual/Two Oceans marathon, known as “the world’s most beautiful race”, attracted close to 30 000 athletes plus spectators. The athletes are handed an energy drink in green sachets, which proved to be the most problematic item for the teams to collect.

“There were 23 refreshment stations which each received approximately 20 000 bags which they hand out to the athletes. That’s a lot of green sachets to keep track of!”, Kieser explained. On top of this, the day’s unexpected cold and wet conditions caused many people to use refuse bags as make-shift raincoats, which were later discarded and also needed to be collected. Despite these challenges, the Plastics|SA clean-up team once again faced their task with vigour and dedication. A total of 9 truckloads of plastic waste were removed after the race day, and sent away for recycling. This endeavour helped with greening the marathon.

DSC_0910The intrepid team of waste collectors were also in action this past weekend, assisting with the SA Navy Festival which took place in Simonstown Harbour. John used this opportunity to deliver a presentation to the new intake of servicemen on the ‘clean sea/clean ship’ mentality, highlighting the need for the material generated on the various vessels to be compacted and returned to the harbour for recycling. Waste generated at the event was sorted on site and transported to the Waste Plan MRF in Kraaifontein for recycling. Food waste was sent to Noordhoek for compositing.

“It is obvious that the public still needs to be educated about littering and responsible participation in such events. Our “event greening” is a much needed service which also gives us a visible platform to showcase the plastics industry’s commitment to waste management and recycling during marathons and other athletic events,” Kieser concluded.