For runners, the crisp days of autumn mean one thing: It's marathon season.
Because of rescheduling and postponed races from earlier in the year, it's also going to be a very busy season. All five of the most prestigious marathons of the year — Berlin, London, Boston, Tokyo and New York — are taking place within a seven-week period. Other big races, such as those in Chicago, Paris, Amsterdam, Hong Kong and Los Angeles, are squeezing into those same weeks.
All of that means it's also time for news stories and comments about the sustainability of big sporting events. In the United Kingdom, for instance, the Environment Agency has suggested that runners who litter during a race should be disqualified.
Make no mistake, a lot of single-use plastics are used at races. Most marathons use paper cups at water stops, but the coated paper isn't recyclable. Some of the big events hand out bottles at water stops, which are better for making sure the water is safe, but wasteful for runners who are only taking a few sips, then tossing the rest away, even if the race has a recycling system in place.
But race organizers are trying to improve. Prior to the Oct. 3 London Marathon, organizers encouraged runners to carry their own drinks and sold hydration belts that could carry bottles, while some runners wore running vests that could carry bottles and cope with trash.
The makers of Heatsheets, the thin emergency blanket made of polyethylene film, have been working with Trex for the past 10 years to collect and recycle them into composite wood and decks.
While some items may not actually be recyclable, no matter what companies may claim (I'm looking at you, sticky energy gels, with your flexible packaging), it is possible to run cleaner races. But hopefully they won't all be at the same time next year.