A few years ago, David Deigan noticed three or four dumpsters filled with disposable plastic blankets given at the end of the Chicago Marathon.
``It was really a wake-up call,'' said Deigan, founder and chief executive officer of AFMInc. in Petaluma, Calif. Runners want the blankets to stay out of landfills, so he responded by making an easier-to-recycle product.
This year, Deigan is in the midst of a pilot program of six marathon events to see how best to recycle the wraps, and he expects by year's end to have a set of protocols that running events can use to recycle the low density polyethylene plastic waste, including AFM's Heatsheets-on-a-Roll finish line and aid-station heat-reflective plastic blankets.
The weather, clearly marked containers and ease of recycling are some of the factors for successful recycling. But factors change week-to-week.
``If the weather is bad, no one is giving up [their blanket]. They all [wear] them back to the hotel or to their car,'' he said.
Another issue he encountered is that collection bins can look like trash cans. That problem was solved by placing people in front of the bins to take the blankets.
``Our product is one of the most prominent products at the finish line of long-distance running events,'' he said.
The desire to recycle the blankets led AFM to change its material to a proprietary low density polyethylene blend.
AFM also has turned to Eco-Logistics, a consulting group focused on making sporting events environmentally friendly. Eco-Logistics is working with plastic film processors and solid waste management companies to help AFM achieve its goals and make its program cost effective.